By Aaron Korte
PHOTO BY AARON KORTE
New Riegel’s Taylor Arbogast is out at home as Mohawk catcher Taylor McClain readies to throw during Wednesday’s game.
New Riegel’s Brittany?Gillig waits for a throw as Mohawk’s Clara Adelsperger gets a lead off third base during Wednesday’s game in Sycamore.
SYCAMORE - It's a matter of perspective.
Some teams are focused on the regular season.
Others are focused solely on the post season.
So when Mohawk knocked off No. 2 New Riegel, 9-7, on Wednesday night at Sycamore American Legion Ballfield, it didn't mean as much to Blue Jackets coach Jamie Lininger as one would think.
"Congratulations to Mohawk on their league championship," Lininger said. "I don't really care about the league to be honest with you. I do, but I don't. We have bigger fish to fry. Our goal is obviously to not only win the league but we're good enough to go to state. Mohawk can win the league. That's fine. Hopefully we'll make a nice tournament run."
The victory left Mohawk in sole possession of the Midland Athletic League at 3-0. New Riegel dropped into a tie for second at 2-1. While there's a lot of season left to play, the victory wasn't lost on Mohawk slugger Clara Adelsperger.
"We knew that New Riegel is one of the teams that you have to beat to win the league," Adelsperger said. "We're always wanting to beat them no matter what. But you're always a little nervous too. And it's a relief to get it off our chest now and look on to the next game."
"We have a goal we want to reach," Adelsperger said. "We want to do well in tournaments."
She led a Mohawk attack that rapped out 12 hits against New Riegel.
It was also an offense that came through in the clutch as eight of the nine runs were scored with two outs.
"That was big. They just kept coming up with hit after hit," Lininger said. "My hat's off to them. They hit the hell out of the ball."
Mohawk coach Jenny Weinandy said she'd love to see her team be that aggressive all the time.
"We've been doing that lately. It puts a lot more pressure on the batter," Weinandy said. "I wish they would go up the plate mentally thinking they have two strikes on them so we don't have to go through all those pitches."
The scoring got started in the bottom of the second when Julie Adelsperger (4-1) supported her mound effort with a one-out solo home run. Two batters later, then Brooke Weinandy scored on a Taylor McClain single. After a Cambria Kohlenberg double, MacKenzie Sowers smashed a two-RBI double. Sowers was plated a batter later by a Clara Adelsperger single to give Mohawk a 5-0 lead.
New Riegel got two back in the third. Taylor Arbogast doubled, scoring Leah Bouillon and Taylor Kirian. But Mohawk ended the threat with an unusual 1-3-2 double play.
The Blue Jackets (12-2) picked up another run in the fourth when Lauren Zoeller planted a home run in nearly the same place Julie Adelsperger had two innings prior, cutting the lead to 5-3.
Mohawk got two of those back in the bottom half of the fourth, thanks to three errors by New Riegel. Kohlenberg and Sowers reached on a single and an error respectively. Clara Adelsperger then drove in Kohlenberg with a single and Sowers scored a play later on a dropped infield pop-up.
In the fifth, New Riegel trimmed it to 7-4. The Blue Jackets loaded the bases and Kara Scherger drove in Morgan Noftz, but Mohawk slammed the door after that, getting a strikeout and pop-out to end the threat.
Mohawk stretched it to 9-4 in the sixth when Kasey Adelsperger singled to center, scoring Sowers and Clara Adelsperger.
But even with a five-run lead, Weinandy wasn't comfortable.
"When it's the fourth inning, I want it to be the sixth inning," Weinandy said of her late inning nerves. "I've been watching the paper and the last couple innings (New Riegel has been scoring). They do have some good hitters. I'm not going to take that away from them."
Those good hitters took advantage of the extra chances Mohawk gave them, too. The Warriors, who had five errors in the game, started the inning by allowing Kirian to reach on an error. After an out, Scherger reached on an error as well. Two batters and an out later, the two moved to second and third on a wild pitch. Kirian scored on a Zoeller single and Scherger a play later on a Brittany Gillig single. Lauren Ladd's single drove in Zoeller to give New Riegel the tying run on first with two outs. Bouillon then hit a sharp grounder to second that pinch runner Elyssa Theis tried to hurdle, but it caught her foot, causing the automatic out for runner interference.
"It was a good game. Anytime you spot a team like Mohawk five runs, it's easy to sit back and say 'this game's over with,'" Lininger said. "But these girls didn't do that. You have to think we had them worried until the very last out there.
"That's a good team. They hit the ball well and not much we could do on a lot of things. Just when we were about back in it, I thought we had a couple errors that gave them a little more cushion and those two runs they scored in the sixth were big for them."
Weinandy said she was pleased with the way her team responded.
"I was proud of my team. They stayed focused. They stayed with the plan even when adversity tried to bring us down. The seniors really stepped up to make sure things didn't get through or helped our underclassmen to stay strong.
"I'm proud of my team tonight. Knocking off No. 2 in the state," she said. "They have the target. We don't. That's the way I wanted it to be."
Julie Adelsperger (4-1) picked up the win for the 8-2 Warriors. She struck out six and walked two.
"I felt Julie pitched a tremendous game, keeping their batters off with her changeup," Weinandy said. "She's always confident in saying 'This is working good. This is working good.' I have all the confidence in her."
Kirian (11-2) took the loss, striking out five.
"They gave us a couple back. The big difference was they were able to hit with runners in scoring position and we left quite a few on base," Lininger said. "That one inning that we left the bases loaded kind of killed us. We had one our bases loaded and couldn't get anything in.
"They're a good team. We're a good team. It was a good game."
"It's always a good battle between New Riegel. Jamie always puts together a nice team," Weinandy said. "And I thought the better team won tonight."