Beno, Latoria go distance for St. Charles East in doubleheader

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With experience, solid fielding and a potent offense on St. Charles East’s side, the ability to make a run at the Upstate Eight River title seems to hinge on pitchers Alexia Latoria and Haley Beno.

Both passed their first tests with ease Friday in a season-opening, nonconference doubleheader at home against West Aurora, as Beno went nine innings and toughed out a 3-2 verdict and Latoria threw a three-hitter in a 7-1 victory.

“I know the work the girls put in during the offseason was tremendous,” said St. Charles East coach Kelly Horan. “I think my expectations are very high, but I think the girls will definitely reach them.

“I think today was a good indication on how hard they’ve worked because they both looked pretty sharp and I’m pleased with that.”

The Saints had Shannon Pederson as staff ace last year, while Beno also got time in her second varsity season. On Saturday Beno displayed both dominance and leadership for a junior when she rebounded from a seventh-inning disaster and worked through a similar situation in the eighth before the Saints won it in the bottom of the ninth thanks in part to the speed of returning Upstate Eight River player of the year Lexi Perez.

Beno struck out nine and allowed seven hits.

“With Haley it was bend, bend, bend and she didn’t break,” Horan said. “And her defense behind her didn’t break. In fact, it was good most of the day.”

In the seventh West Aurora bunched together three straight hits, including a clutch, two-strike RBI double to left by Taylor Podschweit. Beno pitched out of a second-and-third jam by coaxing a ground out to Perez at short. Then, in the eighth, the Blackhawks, again with two outs, put three straight on base, including singles by Cara Jimenez and Jessica Mikayska. But Beno this time got out of it by striking out losing pitcher Kaylee Hayton to end the threat.

“I was just trying to stay relaxed and hit my spots,” Beno said. “For the most part I felt like I was doing that and all my pitches were working.

“In the seventh I think I was letting the nerves get to me a little bit, but I got it together and my fielders helped.”

The Saints won it when Perez reached on a one-out walk and stole second as the throw-out attempt went into center. Then slap hitter Tess Hupe bounced one to a dead spot in the drawn-in infield, leaving West with no play at the plate as Perez scored the game-winner.

“I thought both our pitchers deserved better today, especially Kaylee,” said West coach Randy Hayslett. “The first two runs we gave up in each game were unearned and unfortunately we only scored two in the first game and just the one in the second game. We made a nice comeback in the first game, but we’re just a little off yet offensively and not in sync defensively. It’s our first games.”

In the second game, St. Charles East took advantage of a two-run, second-inning throwing error, then bunched together three hits in each the third and fifth innings to break open the game. Kate Petersburs went 3-for-3 with two RBI and two runs in the second game, while Latoria and Hupe each had two hits.

Latoria, a sophomore, struck out seven and retired the last eight Blackhawks in order.

“I’m pleased with both pitchers,” Horan said. “They were going to go all seven innings no matter the circumstances. We hadn’t been able to get outside yet.”

And in Beno’s case, it was nine innings.

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