MAPLE PARK – Katie Kowalski was in old form.
The DeKalb senior pitcher mowed down the Kaneland lineup Thursday afternoon, striking out 11 Knights in a complete game while earning the victory in the Barbs' 3-1 win.
Kowalski, the Daily Chronicle Player of the Year in 2011, has battled injuries the past two years, but on Thursday she was in top form for DeKalb (10-4, 1-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East).
"Today, this was the best I've seen Katie throw in two years, to be honest," DeKalb coach Jeff Davis said. "She had 11 strikeouts, only three hits. We we're out there talking, I was like, 'That reminds me of Katie in '11.' She was striking out anywhere between eight and 13 kids per game."
Kowalski walked only two batterr, and two of the three hits she allowed came in the sixth. But with runners on second and third and one out, her team holding the two-run lead, Kowalski got Meg Cohrs to fly out to second, and struck out Hayley Contorno looking to end the Kaneland (7-8, 0-2 NI Big 12 East) threat.
One advantage Davis has is the fact he's able to bring in sophomore Morgan Newport in relief if needed, and Newport gives him a great second option.
She warmed up in the sixth, but Davis decided to stick with Kowalski for the seventh, when she got the Knights out 1-2-3, fanning Angie Morrow and Rachel Goress in the process.
"When they started warming her up, I was a little like, 'Oh man,' because I wanted to finish the game. Big games like this, the ending is what matters the most," Kowalski said. "But then he told me I was going out for the seventh, and I'm like, 'I got this.' "
One of the lone mistakes Kowalski made was when Lanie Callaghan hit a pitch over the fence in center field to lead off the fourth and give the Knights a 1-0 lead.
The Barbs got their three runs in the fifth – all with two outs – on a two-run double by No. 3 hitter Sarah Friedlund that scored freshman Erin Karasewski and Newport, and an RBI double by Lindsey Costliow that plated Friedlund.
It was the freshman Karasewski who started the rally.
"There was two outs, [Karasewski] leads off with a hit up the middle," Davis said. "So today was her varsity debut. She did well, she had a couple strikeouts early, but I thought she did well."