Yorkville stays ahead in conference chase

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Halfway through the Northern Illinois Big 12 East softball schedule, Yorkville remains perfect after winning 3-2 Tuesday in a nail-biter in DeKalb.

“We’ve played everybody once and beaten everybody once,” Foxes coach Kathi Dockstader said. “Best start ever, I mean conference-wise, and probably in any conference we’ve played. Certainly since I’ve been here, and this is my 14th year.”

The Foxes (13-4, 5-0) held off the Barbs (10-2, 3-1) when junior pitcher Rachael Owens escaped a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh by getting DeKalb freshman Morgan Newport to ground to Yorkville junior shortstop Corrine Rowe.

“I always like it when someone hits it to her,” said Owens, who wasn’t overpowering but relied on her defense to lift her record to 13-3.

She scattered eight hits, walked four and struck out three but gave up just one earned run — on a game-tying RBI single from Haley Tadd in the sixth that made it 2-2. The hosts capitalized on two infield errors in the first to take an early 1-0 lead, but the Foxes were stellar in the field after that.

Rowe snared a shot up the middle with runners on first and second and no outs in the fifth, stepped on second and fired to first for a double play.

“Excellent play,” said Dockstader. “And then Danielle Hampton made a couple nice catches in right field.”

One was a rolling catch going toward the line in the third and then she made a run-saving grab, galloping into the right-center gap after Rowe’s double play.

Yorkville scored a pair of unearned runs in the second off Barbs starter Katie Kowalski, one coming in on Jessica Hill’s clutch RBI single with two out. It settled into a pitchers’ duel but Kowalski left after five for Newport, an up-and-coming lefty.

After the Barbs tied it in the bottom of the sixth, Hill drew a walk to start the winning rally in the top of the seventh. Katie Gette bunted her to second and she came home on an infield error, giving the opportunistic Foxes three unearned runs.

“We know [Owens] had a pretty good game against West Aurora the other day, striking out 14 and I pretty much pumped my team up with that,” DeKalb coach Jeff Davis said.

“We’ve always hit her well and we probably had eight or nine today, but she wasn’t gonna strike us out 14 times and one-hit us but she did well. I thought their defense played extremely well, to be honest with you. The shortstop is very good out there and the right fielder made a couple nice running catches. We’ll get another shot at ’em later on.”

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