Congratulations to Grayslake North High School
Had a chance to watch another great high school playoff game today. This time it was Grayslake North and Prairie Ridge high schools squaring off for a Sectional title.
The game featured two of the top pitchers in the area — Kristi Gandy for Grayslake North and Kirsten Stevens for Prairie Ridge. Both are dominant pitchers and leaders on their teams (along with being strong hitters as well), and today was no exception. Hits were tough to come by all day on both sides.
Grayslake North prevailed by a score of 2-1. The difference was a couple more timely hits for Grayslake North, and some outstanding defensive plays when they needed it.
In the top of the sixth, trailing 2-1 with two outs and a runner on second, one of the Prairie Ridge hitters stroked a single to medium deep left. Knowing how tough runs had been to score all day, the Prairie Ridge coach sent his runner home. Left fielder Courtney Peterson scooped up the ball and fired a perfect strike home. The ball didn’t make it on a fly — it actually rolled for the last part — but catcher Brooke Tracy dropped to her knees, fielded the ball, leapt to her feet and made a very sure tag to cut down the runner at home to end the inning.
Then in the top of the seventh Kristi, who was getting squeezed on the inside corner according to several observers (including Lake Forest College pitching coach Laura Matthews), issued a walk to the leadoff hitter — never a good idea in a tight game. Especially when the leadoff hitter for the inning was also the leadoff hitter for the game. But I saw Kristi and her teammates communicating something prior to facing the next hitter.
As he had throughout the game, the Prairie Ridge coach had his hitter lay down a sacrifice bunt with a runner on first. But there’s a problem when you’re predictable. Grayslake North was ready for it. When the bunt went down, instead of taking the sure out at first, third baseman Kelsey Borders fired the ball to second baseman Jessica Davis covering second, erasing the lead runner. One out.
The next hitter grounded to first baseman Christina Freese; again, instead of taking the automatic out at first she wheeled and fired to shortstop Jordyn Bowen covering second, nailing the lead runner again. Two outs. A couple of pitches later the cleanup hitter hit a short pop to Borders at third, who ran in, squeezed the ball and secured the victory.
One other effort worthy of note. I saw in the newspaper this morning that Stevens struck out 15 North hitters. That seems like a strong but not particularly remarkable performance until you realize that was in six innings since they were the visitors. So out of 18 possible outs, her left arm was responsible for 15 of them. Sounds like she’s ready to pitch for the Cubs!
It was an action-packed, tense but well-played game. Both sides are to be commended for a great job. It was everything we love about softball.