Softball extends Battle of the Bat streak

HARRINGTON – For the third straight season, Lake Forest softball retains The Bat.

Saturday afternoon’s Battle of the Bat match-up between Milford and Lake Forest ended with a 5-4 Spartans’ victory.

“Milford has developed a lot, and they definitely gave us a good battle today,” Lake head coach Ashlie Tatman said following the victory. “I knew they wanted it, and our girls had to dig deep to keep the bat at Lake Forest. It was definitely a challenge to keep Milford off their game. They had some good at bats and made some amazing plays in the field. They just have really good ball players.”

Lake didn’t waste any time offensively, plating the first two runs of the game in the bottom of the first inning.

Centerfielder Mya Maddox led off with a triple, and then proceeded to score on a passed ball, putting Lake ahead 1-0. Starting pitcher Kaitlyn Stahre knocked a single to left field in the following at-bat, and a few batters later catcher Faith Garey drove Stahre home on a ground-out to second base for the game’s second run.

Lake softball poses with The Bat following the team’s 5-4 victory Saturday afternoon (The Journal/Ben Heck).

Milford cut the lead in half with a run in the top half of the second inning.

Sophomore Morgan Petty led off the inning by getting hit by a Stahre pitch. Back-to-back ground-outs from Bucs’ catcher Courtney Kohel and first baseman Genesis Chamberlayne advanced Petty to third base. Petty later scored on a Stahre balk during Kalaysia Reynolds’ at bat.

Milford took its first lead of the game the following inning, scoring a pair of runs in the top of the third. Lead-off hitter and senior centerfielder Rajene Bowe singled to centerfield, and then proceeded to steal second base. Junior second baseman Darby Brennan sent Bowe to third base on a double to left field.

A Megan Fry walk loaded the bases for the Bucs. Milford made sure to take advantage of the scoring opportunity and Lake Forest mistakes.

Petty drove Bowe in with an RBI single and a passed ball scores Darby Brennan to give Milford the lead.

The lead was short-lived, as Lake re-gained the lead in the bottom of the fourth.

Sophomore Grace Aguilar led the inning off by reaching base on an infield single. Maddox advanced Aguilar to second base with a sacrifice bunt. Brooke Glanden hit an RBI double to left field, scoring Grace to knot the game up at three runs apiece. One batter later, Kerrigan Simpson’s ground-out to third base scores Kait Stahre to give Lake the lead for good.

Stahre’s fourth and fifth innings in the pitcher’s circle couldn’t have gone any smoother, as she retired all six batters faced while clinging to a slim lead.

Sophomore Grace Aguilar beats the throw to first base, reaching safely on an infield single in the fourth inning (The Journal/Ben Heck).

“Kait pitched really well today,” coach Tatman said of her pitcher’s performance. “She was hitting her spots. She was a little wild in the beginning but she settled down and started hitting her spots. She maintained her focus for the most part and her defense behind her picked her up when she needed them.”

In softball, a one-run lead is rarely safe. In need of some insurance runs in the fifth inning, Lake’s junior second baseman Kayla Thompson drove a Morgan Abbott pitch over the left field wall for a solo home run. The homer, her first of the year, extended Lake’s lead to 5-3.

“It felt good,” Thompson said of hitting her first home run in a close game against Milford. “My team needed me and I just managed to pull it through, that’s all that matters.”

Milford pulled to within a run in the top of the sixth. Petty led the inning off with a bloop single to shallow right field, later scoring on a Julia Reed infield single. Courtney Kohel rounded third base on the play but was thrown out at home plate.

Stahre made her way out of further damage by ending the inning with a strikeout.

In the top half of the seventh and final inning, Milford made another attempt at knotting the game up. Down one run, Rajene Bowe led off the inning with a lineout to the first baseman.

With one out, Darby Brennan drove a Stahre pitch to the outfield. Brennan quickly rounded second but was thrown out at third base as she attempted to stretch a double into a triple. A Megan Fry fly-out to right field completed the three-up and three-down inning and clinched the victory for Lake.

Third baseman Brooke Glanden applies the tag in time to get Milford’s Darby Brennan out in the top of the seventh inning. Brennan had attempted to turn in a double into a triple on the play (The Journal/Ben Heck).

Prior to Saturday afternoon’s one-run victory, Lake had been blowing opponents out in five-inning games.

The team opened the season with an 18-1 victory over Dover and proceeded to defeat Polytech 16-6. The win over Milford puts Lake at 3-0 to start the season as the squad looks to avenge last year’s state semi-finals loss.

Thompson says the team is using the playoff loss as motivation this year.

“That has definitely pushed us to play harder than last year and do our best every day in practice so we can make it to the finals this season,” she said.

With three tough away games against Red Lion, Sussex Central and Sussex Tech coming up, Lake knows they have a challenging road ahead.

“We have some tough games coming up and hopefully this is a warm-up for what we’ve got ahead of us,” coach Tatman said.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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