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Minooka softball beats Neuqua Valley

MINOOKA — The Minooka Indians softball team hit a dry spell in the middle of the season. They suffered two tough Southwest Prairie Conference losses to Plainfield East and Plainfield Central, giving them slim chances of taking home a third straight conference title.

With their 5-2 victory over Neuqua Valley on Saturday, however, it seems that they have righted the ship as they enter the final two weeks of the regular season. 

“This has been a crazy spring. Any other spring, the little losing streak wouldn’t have mattered as much,” head coach Mark Brown said. “Since we’ve only played 10 games, it’s been magnified. Now that we might get a chance to play consistently, you’ll see a really good group of players.”

The big inning for the Indians came in the third on Saturday. It started in the top half of the inning, as Neuqua was threatening to score with a runner on second and two outs. The Wildcats’ leadoff hitter Jamie O’Brien hit a single up the middle into center field, which looked as if it was going to bring the runner home to tie the game up at one. Alyssa Mazurek, the runner, rounded third and headed home, to only be thrown out at the plate by Minooka’s Jordan Larson.

“From left to right, all of our outfielders have great arms,” Brown said. “Any time there’s a single with a runner on second, we know there’s going to be a play because our outfielders can bring it.”

Feeding off the momentum from the putout, the Indians came out in the bottom half of the inning and pushed across four runs, increasing their advantage to 5-0. The big hit of the game came from junior Caroline Brown, who hit a double with the bases loaded, bringing home Sara Novak and Jackie Lilek to make it 3-0 at the time. A sacrifice fly from Kelsey Smith made it 4-0, then a RBI single from MiKayla Malone made it 5-0. 

“I felt like coming up as the designated player, I obviously needed to bring in the RBIs,” Caroline Brown said. “I went up there like it was any other at bat, shortened my swing up a little bit, and hit the ball.”

The five runs were more than enough for Lilek, who cruised against the Wildcats lineup all day. The senior pitched a complete game, only giving up two runs on seven hits with two strikeouts. 

“Neuqua is a really good team, and they have a bunch of left-handed hitters that usually do good off of me,” Lilek said. “So I was glad I was able to get control of them throughout the day.”

With so many games being canceled in the early part of the season, Minooka now gets ready for a two-week stretch that will see it almost playing every day. Even though there will be a lot of action from now until the postseason starts on May 20, the Indians are looking forward to the challenge. 

“I feel like this stretch is going to be an advantage for us because we have the type of team that when we catch too many breaks, we tend to back down a little bit,” Caroline Brown said. “So I think having a ‘go-go-go-go-go’ type of stretch will be good for us.”

“We’d rather play than practice. We get bored at practice, and we love getting to go out and play,” Lilek added. “It’s definitely more fun to be going out and playing.”

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