July 1, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Dowling, Dukeman power SJO softball to home win

So far, so good this season for the St. Joseph-Ogden High School softball team.


The Spartans (10-0) kept their undefeated season intact with a pair of wins before they are slated to end the week with three straight road games.


On Monday, SJO beat Rantoul 9-2 in Illini Prairie Conference action, which came after the Spartans won 3-1 at Tri-Valley this past Saturday in a nonconference game.


SJO rode the powerful bats of Bailey Dowling and Hannah Dukeman to a win against Rantoul. Both sluggers went 3 for 4 with three RBI and a home run, with Dukeman falling just a double shy of hitting for the cycle.


Kennedy Hudson (2 for 3, two RBI, two runs scored), Sophie Martlage (2 for 3, two runs scored) and Kaylee Ward (1 for 3, RBI) also chipped in at the plate for SJO.


Ashtyn Cromwell recorded the win in the pitcher’s circle for SJO by starting and going 3 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on five hits. Zoey Witruk recorded the save, giving up one hit in 3 1/3 shutout innings of relief and striking out seven.


Rantoul jumped ahead 1-0 in the top of the first before Dukeman tied the game at 1 with a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the first.


SJO went ahead 3-1 in the second inning and never relinquished its lead thanks again to some timely offense with two outs. Martlage and Audrey Short both walked with two outs before Dowling singled to load the bases. This brought up Dukeman, who delivered a two-run single to plate both Martlage and Short.


Rantoul cut into SJO’s lead with a run in the top of the fourth, making it 3-2, before the Spartans broke the game open with a five-run output in the bottom of the fourth.


Martlage started the inning with a leadoff double and with one out, Dowling launched a two-run home run over the left field fence to increase SJO’s lead to 5-2. Dukeman followed with a triple and Ward drilled a double to score Dukeman, putting SJO up 6-2.


Savannah Smith reached first after getting hit by a pitch, and both she and Ward moved up 60 feet after a passed ball. This allowed both of them to score when Hudson doubled to give SJO an 8-2 lead.


A one-out single in the fifth by Dowling drove in Martlage to make it 9-2 and rounded out the scoring in SJO’s second conference win of the season.


The Spartans relied on a superb pitching performance from Witruk, along with steady offensive contributions from Katie Poulter and Dukeman, in knocking off Tri-Valley.


Witruk threw a four-hit complete game, striking out 14, while Poulter and Dukeman each went 2 for 3, with Poulter hitting a solo home run.


SJO took a 1-0 lead in the third inning by scratching across the game’s first run. With one out, Short walked and Dowling followed up by reaching on an error. Dukeman walked to load the bases, bringing up Ward, who drove in Short with a sacrifice fly to right field.


SJO didn’t take long in the fourth to increase its lead to 2-0 with Poulter drilling a home run to lead off the inning, providing more than enough run support for Witruk.


The Spartans manufactured their final run in the fifth to go ahead 3-0. With one out, Dukeman singled and advanced to second on a passed ball before Ward reached on a walk. Smith then dropped down a bunt single to load the bases before Dukeman came around to score on a wild pitch.


Tri-Valley pushed across its lone run in the bottom of the sixth to cut SJO’s lead to 3-1 and after Tri-Valley collected two singles in the bottom of the seventh, Witruk forced a groundout to end the game and preserve another solid win for the Spartans.


SJO will get three more chances this week, if the weather cooperates, to add to its win total. The Spartans travel to face Kankakee Bishop McNamara at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday before traveling to play at Bloomington Central Catholic at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday in IPC action and then heading to Mattoon on Friday afternoon for a tournament hosted by the Green Wave.

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