Softball: Marissa Panko’s hit lifts Benet past Downers North
Benet leadoff hitter Maeve McGuire is widely feared among opposing pitchers and coaches for her prowess at the plate.
After the Redwings’ 6-3 nonconference home win Tuesday against No. 4 Downers Grove North, No. 2 hitter Marissa Panko (3-for-4 with an RBI) may start getting some respect of her own. Panko, a sophomore, produced the game-winning hit for the second time in three games. Her two-out knock in the sixth plated the go-ahead run after Benet had tied the game 3-3 when Abbie Gerth scored on a wild pitch.
After Kendall Duffy walked, cleanup hitter Julianne Rurka laced a two-run single to provide the Redwings with a pair of insurance runs. Their combined efforts made a loser out of Trojans starting pitcher Elaine Heflin, who is now 9-3.
Heflin went six innings, striking out seven Redwings. She allowed six runs but only two were earned. Benet managed six hits and drew six walks from Heflin.
“I was looking for the riseball because I know she throws a bunch of those, so I was trying to lay off those but I was ready for anything,” Panko said.
She got an inside curveball to her liking and fisted the ball into center field.
“My kids just don’t quit,” Benet coach Jerry Schilf said.
McGuire, a junior, gunned down Ali Woitovich at home to end the fifth, following a single by Dale Ryndak. That defensive gem seemed to swing the momentum in the Redwings’ favor.
Benet got a run in the bottom of the frame when Panko singled, Duffy doubled and Rurka grounded out to drive in the Redwings’ second run of the afternoon to cut the Downers North’s lead to 3-2.
“The better team beat us today,” Downers North coach Mark Magro said. “I mean, no doubt about that. They wanted it more and we were flat from the fourth inning on.”
He said his team played like it was “scared.”
Given Benet’s lineup, which features no soft spots throughout the order, their fear was quite understandable. Despite Benet’s dangerous lineup, though, Heflin tamed the order the first four innings.
Ryndak (3-for-3) homered in the first to give the Trojans (16-3) a quick 2-0 lead just three batters into the game. After a Stephanie Abello ground ball plated Benet’s first run, Downers North scored again in the third on an RBI single by Sam Yeager.
Molly Moran got the win for Benet to improve to 20-2 — the same record as her team. She went seven innings, scattering eight hits while striking out six. All three runs she allowed were earned.
“A lot of our wins early on didn’t feel as good as this, and this one feels, I think, (like) probably one of the best,” Moran said.
In a battle of the McGuire sisters, Maeve went 1-for-3 with a walk and sophomore Rowan had a 1-for-2 day with a walk for the Trojans.