CRYSTAL LAKE – Kristin Koepke normally isn’t at her best when she’s got to battle cold, rainy conditions.
The McHenry sophomore pitcher routinely struggles with her control and with hitting her spots, leaving her vulnerable to being hit hard.
But Monday, Koepke’s teammates told her to ignore the intermittent bouts of the steady precipitation that made playing conditions miserable. Instead, she remained focused on shutting down Crystal Lake South’s hitters, taking heed to what she had been told.
Koepke scattered five hits and struck out six as the Warriors handed South its first loss of the season in an 8-1 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division win. The game was called after five innings because of inclement weather.
But as good as Koepke was, she had plenty of offensive support.
McHenry (7-4 overall, 1-0 FVC Valley) banged out 12 hits – seven of which came in the fifth inning when the Warriors broke the game open with five runs. But even before the offense came, Koepke worked with what her teammates gave her.
Kopeke credited catcher Carly Mattson, who mixed the pitch calls, keeping the ball off the plate and the Gators off-balance.
“Things worked for us,” Koepke said. “I feel like for how the weather was, it was a really good outing. I just had to fight through it – there was nothing we could do about it.”
Koepke never ran into serious trouble, keeping South (7-1, 0-1 Valley) from scoring until Kim Woods delivered an RBI groundout, scoring Erin Yazel, who reached earlier in the inning on an infield single.
McHenry gave Koepke just enough offensive production, scoring single runs in the second, third and fourth innings. The Warriors took advantage of a South error in the second and took advantage of defensive lapses Gators coach Scott Busam characterized as “raw.”
“They put the ball in play, they hit the ball hard and you’ve got to play good defense,” Busam said. “We did not ... and they exploited everything we were willing to give them. It’s disappointing because we have a better team than what we showed today.”
McHenry’s offense only made matters worse for the Gators.
Alex Martens and Cassie Arns paced McHenry with two hits apiece. Martens had two doubles and drove in a run while Arns drove in a pair of runs with a single and a double. The brunt of the offense came in the fifth inning when the Warriors settled in against South starter Hailee Massie, driving the ball and finding empty gaps in the Gators defense.
“[Massie] kept placing it right down the middle and it was was just easier to hit,” Martens said. “It was just good placement. Everybody just hit the ball where they weren’t. They were just line drives and it was just perfect. It felt great to finally get out and hit some balls.”
Note: A correction was made from an earlier version of the story describing how Crystal Lake South scored in the fifth inning.