High school softball: Early miscues too much to overcome for Marengo

MAPLE PARK – Despite not making consistent, solid contact until the fourth inning, Marengo had its chances to cut into Sycamore’s lead in Monday’s Class 3A Kaneland Supersectional but couldn’t pick up the hits it needed in a 4-1 loss.

The Indians, who won the seventh sectional title in softball program history Saturday, were seeking their second state-tournament trip in three seasons.

Senior Grace Houghton, who helped Marengo win the Class 3A state championship in 2017, reflected on the seniors’ journey Monday.

“It was very exciting for us. We’re just keeping a tradition alive every postseason,” Houghton said. “Marengo is known for keeping it going, and that’s what we did this year. It [stinks] that we ended here, but we had a very good year. I’m proud of everyone on my team.”

With the Spartans (31-6-1) leading, 4-0, in the top fourth, Marengo’s Jenna Turner reached on an error and moved to second after a McKenna Skow sacrifice bunt. Houghton then roped a double off the base of the fence in left-center field for one of her two hits.

With runners on second and third for Marengo (24-16), Lauren Aubry and Mikayla Wzientek ripped line drives that were caught on the left side of the infield.

“Everyone just stayed very up in the dugout. You could hear it. Everyone was just loud,” Houghton said. “We just let the mistakes go. No big deal. We’ve been here before. We were just trying our best to get the timely hits and get it done.”

Marengo broke through for a run in the sixth when, after a Houghton single, Aubry’s grounder to shortstop scored Skow to cut the deficit to 4-1. Wzientek then grounded out as Sycamore pitcher Milani Sablan ended the threat.

“I’m pretty proud of our kids’ effort,” Marengo coach Dwaine Nance said. “I think there was a lot of fight in them today against a really good team. Obviously, I thought we were the underdogs coming in, and giving them the couple runs early kind of hurt us a little bit, but our kids battled.”

The Spartans raced out to a 2-0 lead, with runs scoring on a Faith Reynolds bunt and a Gracyn Gabriel sacrifice fly in the first inning. The Spartans added a run in the second and another in the third as three Marengo errors contributed to Sycamore’s early scoring.

“Coulda, woulda, shoulda about everything,” Nance said. “We make a couple better plays defensively, and we don’t give up as many runs, and now it’s 2-1 maybe coming into the seventh. Different ballgame, but we won’t look at those. We’re going to always be proud of our kids and what they’ve done.”

Reynolds threw five innings of two-hit, one-run ball before Sablan took over for the final two innings.

Brooke Behrens settled down in the circle for Marengo, keeping the Spartans scoreless over the last three innings. Skow threw out a runner at home from left field in the second inning, and Hannah Ritter made a lunging catch in center to end the fifth when Sycamore had two runners on.

“Sycamore is a really good team,” Nance said. “To hold us down to one run – they’re going to the state tournament, good for them, for the first time. I wish [Sycamore coach] Jill [Carpenter] and their coaching staff and players the best of luck. I think they’re going to do pretty well.”

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