Goss: Plainfield Central super even in defeat
June 5, 2012 8:00PM
Plainfield Central catcher Cailey Baker tags out Naperville North's Stephanie Tobin to end a Huskies threat during the East Aurora Sectional. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:41AM
The beauty in sports lies in the unpredictability.
I thought about that after traveling to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb on Monday for Plainfield Central’s Class 4A supersectional softball game against defending state champion Moline.
It had been a long time since I covered a team in such a huge game that rallied from a two-run deficit to score three runs and take the lead in the top of the seventh inning, especially not without help. Moline pitcher Alaina Hofmann walked nobody in the seventh, and her defense made no errors behind her.
The Wildcats, who were limited to two hits through six innings, did the work themselves, meshing five solid hits, including two long doubles, into three runs.
You would think at that point Central would be the team making the trip to East Peoria for this weekend’s state tournament. But the game took a couple of unfavorable bounces and turns in the bottom of the seventh, and Moline scored twice to escape 5-4.
Senior Morgan Vogt, Central’s pitcher and leadoff hitter, was on the money when she described it as “a good loss” despite the hurt. You couldn’t help but come away with a world of respect for coach Anne Campbell’s Wildcats (27-9) and how well and how hard they played in their school’s first softball supersectional.
The Central defense was superb. Senior shortstop Kaleigh Nagle made three outstanding plays. Senior second baseman Rachel Egly made a diving catch of a little infield popup and senior left fielder Karly Jackson contributed a nice running catch.
But no play stuck in anyone’s mind like the one turned in by sophomore third baseman Dominique Roa in the second inning. I note defensive gems with a star on my scoresheet; Roa’s merited two stars.
“Our defense has been on lately, and it was today,” said senior catcher Cailey Baker, who would have had the game-winning single had the bottom of the seventh turned out differently. “But the play I really liked was Dom’s fake throw.”
Moline’s Jordan Myers led off the bottom of the second with a double. Roa played in, at the usual softball position when a bunt could be in order. Instead, Jenna Winthurst hit a hard ground ball that Roa gloved and apparently threw to first.
Only she didn’t. She went through the complete throwing motion. Myers saw that and attempted to get a good jump and advance to third. Thanks to Roa’s fake, Central got her in a rundown and tagged her out, with Winthurst having to hold first.
Again, that unpredictability. I’m not sure I’ve seen a fake in softball to match the one Roa pulled off, and I doubt I ever will see a better one.
I’d also be hard-pressed to recall a better play at the plate than the one Baker made for the second out in the fifth inning. Freshman center fielder Timi Tooley charged a base hit and threw home on the fly, but it was a few feet up the third-base line. Bailey caught the throw and without hesitation dove at the sliding runner, made the tag and held the ball.
She also nearly did the splits to glove a low-and-away throw from second base while keeping her foot on home plate for a forceout in the bottom of the seventh. The problem was, the umpire saw it differently and ruled the runner safe.
Baker’s go-ahead line single to left-center with two outs in the top of the seventh was another magic moment. It knocked in Vogt after her two-run double had tied it.
The Wildcats’ No. 3 hitter who will continue her career at Missouri Science & Technology, Baker squared around as if to bunt, then as the pitch was being delivered got back into a hitting stance and squarely met the ball. Nobody was expecting her to bunt, of course. So why the facade?
“It helps me with my timing,” she explained. “It keeps the bat level.”
Whoever said you see something different in every game had this supersectional in mind. And anyone who believed these Wildcats may not belong on the state stage were badly mistaken.