Plainfield East pitcher Annie Molek deserved a better fate Thursday against Minooka, after allowing just two unearned runs.
Even so, if those two Indians' runs had not come across the plate, there’s no guarantee the host Bengals (4-6, 0-2) would have fared any better against Minooka and its hard-throwing pitcher Sara Novak.
Novak, after all, allowed just 2 hits and struck out 13 Plainfield East batters while making quick work of her opposition in a 2-0 victory. Only once did a Bengals runner get as far as second base – and that came with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, following a stolen base by Brooke Roemer, who had singled with two outs. But Novak (4-1) erased that threat by striking out the next hitter to take that 2-0 lead into the sixth inning.
“That was probably the fastest game I’ve ever played. I was surprised,” Novak said of the cold contest that was completed in just less than one hour. “I felt like my pitching was working a little better today. I feel like I’m starting to get into the swing of things.”
The Indians, now 7-3 overall and 2-0 in the Southwest Prairie, didn’t swing the bats all that great themselves, but scored twice in the top of the third after a two-out throwing error allowed Katie Chitkowski and Jackie Lilek each to come home. Bengals shortstop Nina Maggio had made a nice play to force a runner out at home for the second out of the frame, but then Novak reached on a throwing error that allowed the game’s only two runs to score on the play.
“We were fortunate to get the two (runs) early and then Sara pitched a heckuva game,” Minooka coach Mark Brown said. “We’ve been leaving runners on and not getting that big hit so far this season.”
The Bengals had a glimmer of hope in the bottom of the seventh on Thursday after catcher Taylor Messer led off with a single to left to become just one of three base runners allowed by Novak, the first to start a frame. But the Minooka infield responded with a double play and then Novak notched her 13th strikeout of the afternoon to close out the game.
“She threw the ball pretty well,” Bengals coach Chris Morris said of Novak. “I thought we were going to be able to make the adjustments and catch up to her, but we unfortunately didn’t do that.”
With little offensive support and some costly miscues in the field in that critical third inning, Molek suffered a tough-luck loss, allowing just three hits and no earned runs in seven innings.