Alex Staab – ICC Harbinger
Bloomington, IL – It was a perfect afternoon for some softball in Bloomington on Sunday, as not a cloud was in sight for a fall doubleheader between the Illinois Central College Cougars and the Illinois Wesleyan Titans.
The Cougars were up for a tall task against the Titans, who are coming off a trip to the NCAA Division-III College World Series this past spring.
In the first game, Illinois Wesleyan put one of their top starting pitchers, Mackenzie Marquis, in the circle. The Cougars made quick work of Marquis in the first frame, when Sam McKee (Fr. – Eureka) hit a sacrifice fly, and putting ICC up early, 2-0.
Paige Lane (So. – Princeville) was the starting pitcher for ICC in game one. Despite a slight scare from the host Titans in their bottom half of the first, Lane worked out of it and the score had not changed after a full inning of play.
More offense came from ICC in the second inning when Madi McCoy (So. – Washington) hit an RBI single to put the Cougars up on Illinois Wesleyan, 3-0. Despite the bases going on to be loaded twice, the inning ended when the Titans’ Marquis was able to get ICC’s Megan Adams (Fr. – Moline) to strikeout to end that frame.
It was a matter of time before the Titans found a way to respond, and that came in the third inning in the form of a two-run home run by Sam Berghoff to pull Illinois Wesleyan within 3-2.
The Titans Head Coach Tiffany Prager pulled Marquis from the circle after three innings of work for the senior. In a matter of minutes, the Cougars took advantage. McCoy was able to get a bat on a pitch and take it far over the fence and the scoreboard, scoring two, and putting ICC up 5-2.
It was a few innings of inactivity for both sides, until ICC Head Coach Heather Doty pulled Lane from the circle after four innings. It was a respectable performance from Lane, given the only real mistake she made was the pitch that resulted in a home run in the third inning. Lane was replaced by Brittany Spiesz (So. – Pekin). Spiesz got through her first inning quickly, as only six minutes passed between her entering the game and the end of that half inning.
The Cougars powered back up in the sixth inning. A bunt single from Lou McWhirter (Fr. – East Peoria) was followed by a double from McCoy, her third of the game. That put two runners on base for Lexi Trammell (Fr. – Limestone). Trammell hit a single that resulted in two Cougars scoring to make it 7-2 over Illinois Wesleyan. Just when you thought ICC may be running out of gas, Adams hit an RBI double for the Cougars, setting the final score. The Cougars took game one of the doubleheader by a score of 8-2.
Coach Doty said afterwards that what the Cougars did right in the first game was that they “talked” and “were lively”.
Both teams were allowed a quick break before the final game of the doubleheader occurred. For this one, the Cougars were the ‘home team’ and the Titans were the ‘road team’.
The Cougars did not get off to as near of a hot start as they had in the opening game, allowing Illinois Wesleyan to score and take an early 2-0 lead over ICC in the first inning.
Things took a scary turn in the second inning, when Madi McCoy went to make a play on a pop fly in foul territory. While diving/sliding, she crashed into the fence in front of the Cougars’ dugout. She needed assistance getting off the field. We will not release any further details until a more appropriate time. McCoy was replaced at first base by Paige Lane.
Lane got right to work, making a nice catch in almost the same area that McCoy had made her attempt. Despite the great catch, the Titans still had the bases loaded. The Cougars’ Katie David (Fr. – Illini Bluffs) walked the next two batters, scoring two, and putting Illinois Wesleyan on top, 4-0. A nice catch by Lane and another out after that stopped the bleeding and eventually wound up being all the Titans would score in the second game. All that remained was whether or not the Cougars would score.
It was in the fourth inning that Sam Garcia (Fr. – Washington) stole second. On the throwdown, Sam McKee took off for home and scored, setting the final score of 4-1 Illinois Wesleyan. After the game, Coach Doty said that rather than “lively” the team was “flat”. She added, “We didn’t come out and dominate. She (Katie David) just didn’t have it today.”
Despite the 4-1 loss in game two, the 12th-year head coach did think that some positives came out of this doubleheader.
“I feel like we are further ahead than we’ve been the last few falls.”
The next game for the Cougars softball team is Wednesday, September 27th, when they welcome the Danville Area Jaguars for a doubleheader at 5:00 & 7:00 pm.
The Wednesday night matchup is a rematch of the 2017 Region 24 Championship game, which ICC won by a score of 6-5. Given the tournament was double elimination, the Cougars also faced Danville in the semifinal, also winning that one, 12-4. Cougars fans may recall that game as the one where the ICC lineup hit six home runs (three with two).
We will have updates from the Danville-ICC games Wednesday.
ICC Softball Twitter: @cougs_4_life | Harbinger Sports Twitter: @ICCSportsLive