North’s Myrtle Beach spring break trip got off to a rocky start with three straight losses but the Rangers finally broke into the win column on Tuesday with an 8-5 victory over IC Catholic Prep (Elmhurst, Ill.).
The win was a big one as IC Catholic Prep had won the last three IHSA regional tournaments heading into the 2017 season.
“This was probably one of the better teams of the ones we played,” said North coach Andrew Palermo. “We weren’t ready on Saturday but this team had won regionals three years in a row so this was a pretty good win for us. I’m happy.”
Val Arnold led the Rangers on offense.
She finished the game 4-for-4 with four singles, a run scored and a run batted in.
“I have been getting more and more comfortable at the plate every game, with our coach Tom (Braddock) as a great hitting coach, he can pick out our weaknesses and he does a good job helping fix our swings a lot. I feel like getting some hits today helped my confidence in my swing and I am going to feel a lot more comfortable at the plate.”
Mikaela Fording was 3-for-4 and Kiara Jeffrey, Kristen Peace, Alyssa Robinson, Lexy Genter and Ely Miller all had one hit for the Rangers, who didn’t let the slow start affect their performance.
“It’s very important not to hang our heads after the three losses because we know our potential and we knew we were better than we have been performing the last three games,” Arnold said. “It was very important to play hard and get a victory this game for a confidence boost.”
IC Catholic Prep took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two out double and a single. The Knights added three more runs in the top of the third to push their lead to 4-0.
The Rangers responded with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning when Fording hit a two out single, Peace drew the first of her two walks and Robinson hit a triple to right center but was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
“We were down a couple with two outs and she comes through with a gapper to right center,” Palermo said. “I got her thrown out at home but it took a perfect throw from deep right center to get her out.”
The Rangers took a 5-4 lead in the fourth.
Genter and Arnold hit back-to-back singles to start the rally. Sam Szoradi hit a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position and Miller drew a walk to load the bases.
Jeffrey then hit a two-out triple to give the Rangers a 5-4 lead.
It didn’t last long as the Knights tied it with a run in the top of the fifth but the Rangers scored three in the bottom of the sixth to seal it.
“The hitting came around,” Palermo said. “We’ve been hitting the ball well but today it was very timely.”
Miller singled to start North’s sixth inning rally and Hannah Harris pushed her to second with a sacrifice bunt.
Jeffrey then drew a walk and Fording singled to load the bases.
Peace’s second walk of the game gave the Rangers a 6-5 lead.
“That was big and we even talked to Kristen after because she’s not a big ball taker,” Palermo said. “She doesn’t like it but she took two walks today including the one that put us up 6-5. We had a couple more clutch hits here and there and next thing you know it was 8-5 and Alyssa Robinson shut them down.”
Genter walked and Arnold singled in the inning.
Robinson, who allowed four earned runs and struck out six in seven innings, retired the Knights in order in the seventh. Robinson allowed just seven hits and one walk while throwing first pitch strikes to 21 of the 30 batters she faced.
The Rangers return to action on Wednesday with an 11:00 a.m. game against Harlan County out of Tennessee.