Oak Forest no-hits Evergreen Park
Updated: June 4, 2011 10:04PM
After struggling a bit in its previous game, Oak Forest got back to playing what its coach, Paige Stryczek, refers to as “Bengal softball.”
Sparked by a pair of first-inning runs, along with the no-hit pitching of Emily Norton and Colleen Sherwood, the host Bengals routed Evergreen Park 9-0 on Saturday to capture their fourth consecutive Class 3A sectional crown.
The victory advances Oak Forest to the Normal Supersectional, where the Bengals (30-4) will take on LaSalle-Peru at 4 p.m. Monday at Illinois State. The Cavaliers (24-6) won their first-ever sectional Saturday by defeating East Peoria, 7-5.
“I’m excited,” said Norton, a senior right-hander who improved to 21-4 after striking out 10 over five innings. “We have a pretty young team, so it’s gonna be fun to see what it’s like. I think we’re doing well and I think we’re in a groove, so hopefully, it goes good.”
Norton set the tone by striking out the side in the top of the first. She also slugged a one-out single in the bottom of the frame that scored Samantha Bal with the first run of the game. One out later, Emily Naegele clubbed her 12th home run of the season, a solo shot off Evergreen right-hander Michelle Putlak (13-7). It was one of 13 hits on the day for winners.
“We are the type of team that plays much better with a lead,” Stryczek said. “The way we played against Lemont on Wednesday (a 4-1 semifinal win), when they took the lead first, we played tight and we tightened up. When we score early, we totally loosen up and we are able to play Bengal softball.”
Oak Forest added two more runs on wild pitches by Putlak to go ahead 4-0 in the third. That was more than enough support for Norton, whose only difficult inning came in the fifth, when Evergreen stranded two runners. In all, Norton walked two and also hit a batter before giving way to Sherwood, who retired all six batters she faced.
“Sometimes, you’ve just got to kind of buckle down,” Norton said. “I know we had a lot of runs ... but I just kind of wanted to win as hard as I could, and that’s what I did.”
The Bengals completed the scoring in the fifth, totaling five runs on four hits. All of the damage came against, Putlak, who pitched a complete game despite suffering from back soreness and asthma.
“Physically, I don’t think she was at her best today, but she did everything she could,” Evergreen coach John O’Connor said. “She battled for us, so I’m proud of her.”