CRYSTAL LAKE – Prairie Ridge freshman pitcher Hailey Baker kept pounding the strike zone Tuesday against Crystal Lake South.
Nothing about the Gators' approach seemed to work, and Baker took advantage of a sizeable though consistent strike zone. She struck out 10 Gators, including five who caught looking, and scattered seven hits without walking a batter to lead the Wolves to a 5-1 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division win.
"We stayed with fastballs and mixed in the changeup whenever we could," Baker said. "The curveball was on today, that's for sure. Got them swinging."
Prairie Ridge (9-4, 4-0 FVC Valley) grabbed an early lead on Alyssa Doomis' two-out solo home run in the second inning. Doomis connected on a 1-2 pitch from South starter Hailee Massie that landed over the left field fence for a 1-0 Wolves lead.
The Wolves added another run in the third, which started on senior Claire Bowman's double. Bowman advanced to third on Kate Didier's ground out to second, and she scored on a wild pitch to put Prairie Ridge ahead 2-0.
Despite the two runs scoring, Massie didn't allow the Wolves many scoring opportunities through the first three inning. The Gators' defense let her down as the game progressed, however, as South finished the game with four errors. Defensive miscues led to two runs scoring in the fourth allowing the Wolves to extend their lead to 4-0.
"It's really frustrating," South coach Scott Busam said of the errors. "That was Hailee's best outing of her season so far. She did a good job against a very good hitting team. ... It's been two games in a row where we were in the game, had an opportunity late and our defense let us down."
Back-to-back errors to open the fourth set up runners on second and third following Sammy Hempen's sacrifice bunt. Alyssa Doomis drove in a run on a bloop single to right field that the Gators couldn't corral amid the swirling wind. Emily Widger followed with an RBI single to extend the Wolves' lead to four runs.
“I just tell them to shake it off and make sure we get the next play and don’t get crazy about the errors,” Massie said. “Just keep going.”
With the way Baker (7-3) was pitching the four-run deficit was too much for the Gators (5-6, 0-3) to overcome. Prairie Ridge scored its last run in the seventh on Didier's RBI single to score Bowman, who doubled and advanced on a South fielding error.
"She hit her spots and kept people off balance with her offspeed," Wolves coach Mike Buck said. "She got those across when she needed to, and that's really the key to pitching for anybody but especially Hailey. She did a great job."
Although Massie took the loss, she allowed seven hits in seven innings leading to five runs (three unearned) with four strikeouts.
The Gators scored their only run in the sixth. Kim Woods tripled to right field and scored on Massie's ground out to third.
South's best scoring opportunity came in the fourth, when Woods singled to lead off and Massie reached on a fielder's choice to put two runners on with nobody out. But Baker buckled down and got a foul out, strikeout and ground out to end the inning.
"I throw a lot of drop balls, so I know I have the defense behind me," Baker said. "But it's nice to get a few (strikeouts) in there when you can."