BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI
For the Sun-Times
Lake Forest softball coach Joe Kinsella has seen plenty of ability from his Foresters in recent years. This season, he’s seen something extra.
“This year the biggest difference is we’ve matured as team,” said Kinsella, whose team plays at home Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday, in a best of three super regional against Alma, with the winner advancing to the NCAA Division III World Series in Salem, Virginia.
“We have mostly juniors and seniors on the field, with playing experience, and their mental toughness is outstanding. I’ve had talented teams before, but this one has those special things that make the difference.”
The Foresters (35-9) won their regional at home despite an opening 3-2 loss to CCIW champion North Central. Lake Forest fought back in the double-elimination format by beating Wisconsin-Whitewater 3-2 in 11 innings and North Central 2-1.
That took the Foresters to a Saturday matchup with Hope. Needing to beat Hope twice to advance, Lake Forest won 4-1 and 2-0.
Sophomore pitcher Jenny McTague (16-6, 1.57 ERA, .333 batting average with two home runs) was the winner against North Central and in both Hope games, and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. McTague pitched in all five games and allowed two earned runs in 18 2/3 innings.
“She’s a smart pitcher,” Kinsella said. “She does not present herself as someone who’s going to overpower you, but she throws hard, she keeps the ball down in the zone. I don’t think she gets enough credit for her defensive play. She gives us a fifth infielder and that makes a big difference for a groundball pitcher.”
McTague also works well with junior Jessi Werner (19-3, 1.93, four saves), the Midwest Conference pitcher of the year and the winner in relief against Whitewater.
“Their relationship working together, supporting each other gave us the strength of a staff, instead of the typical softball one pitcher goes out and runs the show,” Kinsella said. “That’s made a huge difference to our program.”
Division III baseball
Concordia Chicago (31-14) opened the NCAA Midwest Regional at La Crosse, Wisconsin, Wednesday with a 2-0 loss to Washington of Missouri. The Cougars play Thursday against the loser of Wednesday’s late game between Wisconsin-La Crosse and St. Scholastica.
Both representatives from the CCAC were eliminated in two games in NAIA regional tournaments. CCAC tournament champion Judson lost 9-4 to Alexandria on Tuesday, the 4-1 to Freed-Hardeman on Wednesday in Kingsport, Tennessee.
In Montgomery, Alabama, CCAC regular-season champion St. Francis (27-28) opened with a 9-3 loss to Lyon, then fell to Northwood 10-9 in 10 innings.
St. Xavier (46-7-2), the top seed at the Oregon Tech regional, lost twice to the host school. With a 2-1 record in Monday and Tuesday games, Cougars needed to beat Oregon Tech twice Wednesday to advance, but lost 5-4 in the first game.
St. Francis (35-19) was in the same situation in Columbia, Kentucky, against host Lindsey Wilson. The Saints were eliminated with a 5-1 loss.