SENECA — Newark scored twice in the top of the first inning of its non-conference softball game at Seneca on Lady Irish ace Nicole Pihl Thursday afternoon.
The possibility of a Lady Irish letdown one day removed from a critical Interstate Eight Conference win at Coal City did not linger for much longer than that. Seneca took the lead with three runs in the bottom half of the first and added to it in each of the next four innings. Meanwhile, Pihl and reliever Kayla Haines shut down Newark from there as Seneca claimed a 10-2 victory.
Three walks and two Newark errors keyed the Lady Irish in their half of the first. Leadoff hitter Chelsie McCormick’s bunt single was the only hit during the inning.
“We came back and got some runs right away, which was nice to see,” Seneca coach Dan Stecken said. “What I was happiest about was that we hit the ball hard all day. We played good defense all day. There was a lot to like.”
Seneca scratched across a single run in the second inning on a wild pitch and got three home in the third, with Pihl contributing an RBI single. In the fourth, a Brittany Crowley single brought home pinch runner Madison Wyss for another run.
The only extra-base hit, and two of the four RBI, produced by the Lady Irish came in the fifth inning. With one out, Sarah Radtke blasted a two-run home run over the center-field wall.
“It was right down the middle. It felt really good, especially since I had been in a slump lately,” Radtke said. “When Nicole (Pihl) gets walked, it makes me mad. I really want to make them pay for that. But it’s good to know that if I make an out, I have the rest of the lineup behind me to back me up.”
After hitting a leadoff single, Melissa Schmidt scored the first Newark run from third base while teammate Kelsea Zitt was being tagged out trying to steal second.
With two outs and the bases empty in the first, the Lady Norsemen scored again when Megan Malone doubled and Caroline Erickson followed with an RBI single.
Zitt took the loss, though just three of the eight runs she gave up in four innings were earned.
“Like I just told the girls, I thought we played a good game. I’m fine with the way we played,” Newark coach Brian Holman said. “We hit the ball well. The only thing was we missed a few of the little plays and that gave them some second chances. (The Lady Irish) play some of the top teams around and hold their own. It’s good for us to play a team like them. I’m glad we got this game in.”
The win was the fourth of the week already for the Lady Irish. They defeated Lisle twice — 8-7 in 12 innings Monday and 15-4 Tuesday — and moved into a tie with Coal City for first place in their division with a 4-3, eight-inning win over the Lady Coalers on Wednesday.
“It meant everything,” Radtke said of the win over Coal City. “It means we’re tied for first place in the conference. The last time we played them (a 14-6 Coal City win on April 22), we didn’t play our best. ... We had a few days off before that because of the flood. Now we’ve been playing a lot, and we’re playing the best we have all year.”
Even with the loss, Newark remains 10 games above .500 at 13-3. The Lady Norse are 9-1 in the Little Ten Conference, which Holman says remains up for grabs between a few teams.
“Coach Holman has done a great job with them,” Stecken said.