CRYSTAL LAKE – The Crystal Lake South softball team continues to cross home plate at an almost inconceivable rate.
Heading into Thursday's Fox Valley Conference home game against McHenry, the Gators were averaging 12.1 runs a game in 24 contests.
That average increased after their 16-0 win over McHenry, a game that was called with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning — and the Gators still batting — because of the IHSA's 15-run mercy rule.
And it's not as if McHenry had been struggling. The Warriors (13-11, 6-6 FVC) entered the game riding a six-game winning streak, and during that span, outscored their opponents by a 58-20 margin.
South (24-1, 11-1) scored four times in the bottom of the first, three times in the second, then batted around and scored nine more runs in the fourth. The first six hitters in the Gators' lineup all had two hits or more, as South had 15 total hits and reached base safely 20 times in 30 plate appearances.
This, one day after they scored 20 runs in a victory against Crystal Lake Central.
"I know it's somewhat cliché," South coach Scott Busam said. "But we focus on the game in front of us and nothing else. We don't look ahead. We don't worry about the conference race or the upcoming playoffs. So far, the results have been a blast to watch."
The last time South finished first in the FVC was in 2007, when it clinched a share of the conference title. The Gators maintained their two-game lead over Huntley (10-3 FVC) in the loss column with the win.
On Thursday, leadoff hitter Brooke Kuffel was 2 for 4. Freshman catcher Alexis Pupillo went 3 for 4 with a double and three runs scored hitting in the No 2 spot. And senior third baseman Emily Sulikowski was 2 for 2 with a double, a walk and four RBIs.
Pupillo is batting .562 after Thursday's win with a team-best 1.550 on-base plus-slugging percentage. She's done so while taking fewer pitches than any other regular in the lineup. Sulikowski, meanwhile, improved her average to .517, and has 10 homers and 52 RBIs.
That's more than two RBIs a game.
"None of us really pay attention to our stats or numbers," Sulikowski said. "We're just in the moment, cheering on every girl in every at-bat."
The rest of South's order stung the ball, too. Cleanup hitter Christina Toniolo, who was also the Gators' starting pitcher, was 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs. She improved to 17-1 with a 2.83 ERA. Baylee Kassel went 2 for 2 with two RBIs and a walk, while Maddie Bush (2 for 3, 2 RBIs) and Skylar Olsen (RBI) also drove in runs.
Even No. 9 hitter Kyra Swartz contributed a three-run homer in the fourth inning, her fourth home run of the season. As a team, the Gators have a mind-boggling 1.017 OPS.
McHenry hopes to put the loss in its rearview mirror.
"There's not much you can say after a loss like that," McHenry coach Mikaela Mitsch said. "It is what it is. It's how we respond to a loss like this that shows our character. We've had a couple of long win streaks this season after tough losses, and we have to remember that one game doesn't define us.
"We have Crystal Lake Central tomorrow. And we better put this behind us, because we have something to prove in that game after losing to them the first time. We still have plenty to be positive about."
STAR OF THE GAME
Emily Sulikowski, Crystal Lake South, sr., 3B
Sulikowski continued her monster season, going 2 for 2 with a walk while driving in four runs, giving her 52 RBIs this season in only 25 games.
308: Runs the Gators have scored, an average of 12.3 a game.
AND ANOTHER THING...
South senior Maddie Bush took two extra bases on an error midway through the game and electrified her dugout with her slide. "She's our Javy Baez out there," South coach Scott Busam said. "Heart and soul of this team."
Crystal Lake South 16, McHenry 0
McHenry 000 0XX X – 0 3 5
Crystal Lake South 430 9XX X – 16 15 0
WP: Toniolo 17-1 (3IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 2BB, 3K). LP: Sellek (4.2 IP, 15H, 16R, 9ER, 2BB, 0K).
Top hitters–Crystal Lake South: Sulikowski 2-2 (Double, BB, 4 RBI), Pupillo 3-4 (Double), Toniolo 2-3 (Double, 2 RBI), Kuffel 2-4, Kassell 2-2 (2 RBI), Bush 2-3 (Double, 2 RBI), Olsen 1-3 (RBI), Swartz 1-3 (3 RBI), Smith (Run scored). McHenry: Currie 1-2, Lard 1-2, Sena 1-2.