ROCKFORD – Lauren Gauger wasn’t sure what happened to the ball when it left her bat Saturday during Crystal Lake South’s softball game against Rockford Boylan. Gauger only knew she had to run.
The Crystal Lake South sophomore took the second pitch she saw in the top of the third inning into deep left field, dropped her bat and bolted toward first, which is when she heard the screaming. Gauger’s shot cleared the fence by about three feet, cleared the bases and put the Gators firmly in control en route to a 16-0 drubbing of the Titans in the second game of the Rockford East Tournament.
The grand slam, Gauger’s first ever, accounted for four of the 43 total runs the Gators plated in three games and 16 innings of ball Saturday. South finished 3-0, beating Durand, 14-3, in five innings, the host E-Rabs, 13-0, in six innings, and the Titans in five. There was a 1-hour, 25-minute time limit on all games.
“I was just trying to be relaxed up there and have a clean swing,” said Gauger, who had seven RBIs on Saturday. “The pitch was a little slow, so I just tried to stay back. I didn’t know where it went; I just ran and then [coach Scott Busam] was like, ‘Go, go.’ ”
Hampshire and Marian Central each went 2-1 in the tournament and enjoyed similar breakthroughs. Bats came alive consistently for the first time this season despite a relentless wind from the west, and runs came early and often.
Marian sophomore Sarah Schaefer also went deep with the bases loaded for the first time in her career, the grand slam coming in the second inning of the Hurricanes’ 11-1, five-inning victory against IMSA. Schaefer used IMSA pitcher Alexis Currie’s fourth offering to record the two-out bomb and put the Hurricanes ahead 7-0.
In its other games, Marian beat Marquette, 5-3 in five innings, and lost to Rockford East, 13-0, in six.
“I went in with the mindset that I just needed to make contact,” said Schaefer, who was 3 for 6 on the day with the grand slam, a double and five RBIs. “This time it just worked out well. We all hit today, which was great to see. We were ready to get it going and we did.”
Hampshire is one of few teams with seven games on its season resumé, because of inclement weather has canceled many other schools’ contests. Despite the extra innings of work, it wasn’t until Saturday that coach Stacey Stepek saw her team play the kind of offense she knows it is capable of playing.
Hampshire put up 24 runs in the first inning of a three-inning game against IMSA in the Whip-Purs’ final game of the day. The 24 runs are tied for fifth all time in IHSA record books; Winchester posted 24 runs against Jacksonville in 1984, and Sycamore scored 24 runs against St. Charles Valley Lutheran in 1991.
Hampshire also beat Durand, 17-1, in three innings and lost to Boylan, 8-7, in five.
“The girls did a really good job of holding back and being patient,” Stepek said. “We finally got the bats going, and that was really good to see. We needed that.”
Becca Hurst led Hampshire with two home runs and six RBIs in three games.