ELK GROVE VILLAGE – Megan Bauwens admitted she was nervous.
When the hitter before her was intentionally walked to load the bases in the bottom of the seventh and the game-winning run on third base, the St. Charles North junior first baseman knew she had to try and remain calm.
After fouling off a 2-2 pitch, Bauwens got the one she as looking for. She ripped a game-winning, walkoff single to centerfield to complete a 4-3 comeback victory for St. Charles North over Elk Grove to win the Class 4A Elk Grove Regional championship.
“I was [0-for-3] going into that at-bat and was definitely nervous,” Bauwens said. “I was looking for a pitch that I could drive, honestly. I don’t think we necessarily want to be down in a game, but we love the adrenaline rush that coming back in a game gives us.”
Bauwens’s single scored teammate Ashlee Chantos to send the North Stars (22-4) into the Class 4A St. Charles East Sectional semifinals against Lake Park.
Chantos was a thorn in the side of Elk Grove (19-11) all game, reaching base in each of her four plate appearances. It wasn’t the reaching base that bothered the Grenadiers as much as what Chantos did once she reached.
The senior No. 2 hitter stole four bases Saturday, which combined with leadoff hitter Leigh VandeHei puts a tremendous amount of pressure on a defense whenever either are aboard.
“There weren’t signs today,” St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said of his top two in the order. “They knew if they got on, they were [stealing] on the first pitch. When you can turn any single or walk into essentially a double, you put yourself in a lot of good positions to score runs.”
VandeHei drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the seventh, which she promptly turned into a runner in scoring position with her only stolen base of the day. Chantos beat out an infield single to put two runners on for Julia Larson, who ripped a game-tying double.
Elk Grove coach Ken Grams elected to intentionally walk No. 4 hitter Sophia Olman, who already drove in a run in the game, to set the table for Bauwens’s heroics.
“I think it changes the game tremendously,” Grams said of the North Stars’ speed at the top of the order. “We got lucky that [VandeHei] only reached once, but [Chantos] reaching all four times hurt us in the end. They stole every time they got on, that was a big part of the game, but [St. Charles North] does it well.”
Chantos, who finished the afternoon 3-for-3 with a walk, RBI, and two runs scored to go along with her four stolen bases, said she never thought her team’s season was going to end despite trailing for all of Saturday’s game.
“I personally never had a doubt,” Chantos said. “I think one of our strengths is being able to come together and push through anything… There’s always a ‘what if’ going through your head, but I think we truly remained confident all game that we’d find a way. I love this team so much.”
Ava Goettel picked up the win in the circle for the North Stars, firing all seven innings and striking out six. She also retired 11 of the final 12 Elk Grove hitters she faced. Her counterpart, sophomore Erika Gore, struck out five in defeat.
Ariana Trausch and Sabina Leinhart had RBIs for the Grenadiers, who won 15 of their final 20 games after a 4-6 start.
St. Charles North will take on Lake Park on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in the sectional semifinals. North’s crosstown rival, St. Charles East, will take part in the sectional’s other semifinal against Glenbard North on Tuesday.
Source: The Daily Chronicle