Softball: Naperville Central’s Keegan Hayes blanks Wheaton North
Keegan Hayes proved to be too dominant in Wednesday’s DuPage Valley Conference showdown as Naperville Central defeated Wheaton North 6-0.
The sophomore pitcher fanned 11 Falcons in earning the shutout and the win. Hayes (8-2) at times struggled with her command but battled her way through the game. Wheaton North (3-15, 1-4) managed just five hits, all singles, against the Redhawks hurler. Hayes walked two and hit a batter.
“It was tough, because it was a little bit frustrating as a pitcher,” she said. “It felt like I was getting squeezed but I just had to keep focusing on the batter and just say, ‘I’ve got to get this batter out and I can’t focus on anything else besides this pitch, because that’s the only thing I can really control.’”
When Hayes did fall behind in the count, she was able to come back and get key outs by using the whole strike zone. She painted the corners with her fastball and worked the upper part of the strike zone by changing hitters’ eye levels with a mix of pitches of varying heights.
The Redhawks defense was flawless behind Hayes.
“I thought Keegan did a real nice job today and I thought we played well defensively,” Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum said.
Naperville Central (15-4, 4-1) now has won 13 of its last 14 games. While clearly pleased to get the win, Nussbaum pointed to the team’s 10 runners left on base as potential missed opportunities on offense.
Amanda Mordacq (1-5) held the Redhawks at bay throughout most of her 4-1/3 innings and left trailing 3-0. Nickey Kent relieved her and proceeded to get two quick outs to escape a one-out, two-on jam.
The Redhawks teed off on Kent in her second inning of work, banging out three hits and scoring three times in the sixth. That rally culminated with Dana Dolehide’s second RBI single in as many innings, this time with two out.
Naperville Central scored two in the second with two out on leadoff hitter Nicole Kappelman’s two-run single. She finished the day 2-for-2 with two walks and a pair of singles.
“I felt pretty confident once we got the lead,” Nussbaum said. “I think we did some good things offensively as far as getting those two-out hits. Nicole Kappelman’s on-base percentage is way over .500, it’s unbelievable, and she just continues to put pressure on defenses, and it’s paid dividends for us.”
The Redhawks have already scored more runs this year than they did in their 2009 Final Four season.
For the youthful Falcons, the game marked another growing pain but also featured some positives.
“We were right there the majority of the game,” coach Karen Calabrese said. “(It was) 2-0 for a while, then 3-0 for a while. This is probably one of the best games that we’ve played this year.”