May 28, 2023 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

SJO softball wins Mattoon Tournament, but fall twice in conference play

Coaches always are eager to see how their teams respond after losses.
For St. Joseph-Ogden High School softball coach Larry Sparks, he had to have liked what he saw this past Friday night in Mattoon.

And now he’ll get another opportunity on Tuesday after the Spartans suffered a 15-10 loss at home on Monday to Illini Prairie Conference rival Unity.

SJO has had a busy past five days on the diamond, compiling a 3-2 record in the process and winning the Mattoon Tournament.

SJO lost its first game of the season last Thursday, falling 5-4 in nine innings at Bloomington Central Catholic. The Spartans rebounded with two resounding wins on Friday night to win the Mattoon Tournament. SJO defeated Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin 19-8 in six innings during its first tournament game before cruising by Mattoon 15-5 in five innings during the championship game.

These results came after the Spartans went on the road last Wednesday and left with a close 13-11 nonconference win at Kankakee Bishop McNamara.
SJO (13-2) will try to rebound from Monday’s loss to Unity at 5 p.m. on Tuesday when it hosts Mattoon in a nonconference game at Randy Wolken Field.

The Spartans had a solid hitting performance against Unity, but so did the Rockets. Bailey Dowling went 2 for 2 with three RBI, three runs scored and a pair of home runs to go along with two walks. Hannah Dukeman (2 for 4, RBI) and Lauren Trankina (1 for 4) both hit solo home runs, while Savannah Smith (3 for 4, two RBI) contributed two doubles. But Unity responded with five home runs, including a grand slam by Kaitlyn Henry in the top of the seventh that pushed the Rockets past the Spartans.

Sophie Martlage took the loss in the pitcher’s circle, giving up seven runs (six earned) on four hits in 2 2/3 innings of relief. Zoey Witruk started and lasted 3 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs and striking out six.

SJO took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning on a solo home run by Dowling and an RBI single from Smith before Unity scored in the second to make it 2-1. Trankina increased SJO’s lead to 3-1 with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, but the Rockets went ahead 5-3 in the top of the third.

A sacrifice fly by Kaylee Ward in the bottom half of the third cut Unity’s lead to 5-4 and then an RBI single by Katie Poulter knotted the score at 5. Unity, however, responded in the top of the fourth with three home runs to stake itself to a 10-5 lead.

An RBI single by Kennedy Hudson in the fifth trimmed Unity’s advantage to 10-6 and the Spartans showed they weren’t done with a sixth-inning rally.
Reagan Crippen singled with one out and Dowling followed with a two-run home run to cut SJO’s deficit to 10-8. The momentum continued for SJO, with Dukeman connecting for a solo home run right after Dowling’s powerful blast to make it 10-9 before Ward and Smith hit back-to-back doubles to tie the game at 10.

But after Unity rallied for five runs in the top of the seventh to take a 15-10 lead, SJO went down in order in the bottom of the seventh.

Prior to Monday, SJO collected 20 hits in its win against Mattoon, with Ward hitting a home run and driving in four runs. Smith also came up with a superb performance, going 4 for 4 with four RBI and two runs scored. Dukeman (4 for 5, four runs scored, RBI), Trankina (2 for 4, three RBI), Dowling (3 for 5, RBI) and Hudson (2 for 3, two runs scored) also had multiple hits for the Spartans.

SJO led 4-0 against Mattoon before the Green Wave had a chance to bat. Dowling struck a one-out single to left field and came around to score on the first of two doubles by Dukeman to give SJO a 1-0 lead.

With two outs, Smith singled to drive in Dukeman and after back-to-back walks to Poulter and Hudson, Trankina hit a two-run single to put SJO up 3-0. The Spartans concluded scoring in that inning after Ashtyn Cromwell put the ball in play, reaching on an error that allowed Poulter to score.
After Mattoon scored twice in the bottom of the first, SJO answered with five runs in the second to take a 9-2 lead.

Dukeman doubled with one out and scored after Ward doubled to increase SJO’s lead to 5-2. Smith then delivered a run-scoring single to make it 6-2 and Poulter followed with a single.

Hudson followed with an infield single to load the bases, setting the stage for Trankina to come through with a two-run single and give SJO an 8-2 lead. Cromwell then laid down a sacrifice bunt, scoring Hudson and swelling SJO’s lead to 9-2.

Mattoon’s offense didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the second inning, scoring three runs to trim SJO’s advantage to 9-5, but Martlage responded the rest of the game in the pitcher’s circle. Martlage threw all five innings, scattering 11 hits and striking out two, to pick up the win.

Back in the batter’s box, SJO kept up its aggressive and successful approach.
Dowling and Dukeman singled to lead off the third inning, and with one out, Smith roped a double to center field to plate Dowling and Dukeman, pushing SJO’s lead to 11-5.

The Spartans added to it in the fourth, all with two outs. With Crippen and Dukeman on base, Ward cranked a three-run home run to give SJO an insurmountable 14-5 lead.

An inning later, Dowling brought home Crippen with an RBI single to make it 15-5 in favor of the Spartans and after Martlage kept Mattoon off the scoreboard, SJO had secured its fourth win this season via the 10-run rule.

SJO scored a season-high 19 runs in its win earlier this past Friday against Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, overcoming an early deficit in the process. Dowling (3 for 4, four RBI) and Trankina (2 for 2, four RBI) each hit home runs to power the Spartans, while four other players had at least two hits. Dukeman (3 for 5, two RBI, three runs scored), Ward (2 for 4, two RBI), Hudson (2 for 4, RBI) and Crippen (2 for 4, four runs scored, two stolen bases) all managed to cause havoc against the Cyclones.

Trailing 6-2 after the first two innings despite an RBI single from Dowling in the first and an RBI fielder’s choice by Cromwell in the second, the Spartans used big innings to propel themselves to a win.

Dukeman tripled to lead off the third inning and came home to score on a sacrifice fly by Ward. A single by Smith and a sacrifice bunt by Poulter moved Smith up to second base, but two outs were in the inning.

No worries. Hudson put the ball in play, reaching on an error and allowing Smith to score as SJO trimmed its deficit to 6-4. Trankina followed Dukeman’s lead and hit a triple of her own to score Hudson, cutting Springfield SHG’s lead to 6-5.

The Spartans took the lead for good with a six-run fourth inning. Crippen walked to start the inning and came around to score on a single by Dowling that tied the game at 6. With two outs after Dukeman drilled a single and Ward reached on an error, Poulter put the ball in play, causing Mattoon to make an error that allowed Dukeman and Ward to score, giving SJO an 8-6 lead.

The Spartans never trailed again, with Trankina connecting for a three-run home run in the inning to put the Spartans up 11-6.

A two-run home run by Dowling in the fifth increased SJO’s lead to 13-6 and the first six batters in the sixth inning for SJO reached base to set up the win. Trankina walked on four pitches to lead off the inning before Cromwell reached first after getting hit by a pitch.

A bunt single by Crippen loaded the bases for Dowling, who kept the carousel moving by walking on four pitches. Dukeman then launched a double to center, scoring Cromwell and Crippen to give SJO a 16-7 lead. Run-scoring singles by Ward and Poulter, along with a run-scoring double by Hudson, pushed SJO’s lead to 19-7.

Hannah Lewis registered the win in the pitcher’s circle, throwing five innings and scattering nine hits while striking out seven. Martlage threw one inning of relief to close out the 11-run victory.

SJO never led against Bloomington Central Catholic as the Spartans endured not only their first loss of the season, but also their first Illini Prairie defeat.

Dowling (3 for 5, RBI) and Dukeman (1 for 4, two RBI) both hit home runs for the Spartans, while Smith (3 for 4, RBI) and Crippen (2 for 4) each had steady offensive games.

Witruk was the tough-luck loser, giving up her only run in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied at 4. Witruk threw 4 1/3 innings of relief after Cromwell started, with Witruk allowing five hits and striking out nine. Cromwell went four innings, giving up six hits and four runs (three earned) along with one strikeout.

SJO fell behind 2-0 after the first inning, but tied the game at 2 in the top of the third thanks to the potent duo of Dowling and Dukeman. Dowling tripled with two outs before Dukeman hit a two-run home run.

But the tie was short-lived after the host Saints scored a run in the bottom of the third to take a 3-2 lead. The score remained that way until the top of the fifth when SJO tied the game at 3. With two outs, after Dowling reached on an error and Dukeman was intentionally walked, Smith doubled to left field to score Dowling.

Much like Bloomington Central Catholic did in the third inning, however, the Saints pushed across a run to go up 4-3 at the end of five innings.
Dowling didn’t wait long, though, to give the Spartans a jolt in the top of the seventh.

Leading off the inning, Dowling took a ball before delivering a solo home run to center field that tied the game at 4.

SJO’s offense managed two more singles in the next three innings, but the score rema\ined tied at 4 entering the bottom of the ninth. The first two Bloomington Central Catholic hitters that inning, Ellie Nelson and Diane Tomczak, singled to put runners on first and second with no outs. After a sacrifice bunt by Ivie Juarez moved both runners up 60 feet, Charlie Sartoris singled to center to hand SJO a loss in walk-off fashion.

Prior to the loss against Bloomington Central Catholic, SJO rallied and then held on for a close win at Kankakee Bishop McNamara.

Dowling (3 for 3, four RBI) and Dukeman (2 for 5, three RBI) each hit home runs for the Spartans, while Ward (2 for 4, RBI) and Hudson (two RBI, two runs scored) both came up clutch.

Witruk threw all seven innings for SJO in picking up the win, overcoming 11 hits and five walks, to go along with seven strikeouts.

The Spartans trailed 1-0 after the first inning but took a 2-1 lead in the second. Hudson was hit by a pitch with one out before Witruk walked and Martlage lined a single to load the bases to set up back-to-back walks issued to Audrey Short and Dowling that put the Spartans ahead.

With the game tied at 2 in the top of the fourth, Crippen, courtesy running for Witruk, came around to score on a wild pitch and give the Spartans a 3-2 lead. Bishop McNamara, however, responded with a three-run home run in its half of the fourth to go ahead 5-3.

The fifth inning, though, changed the course of the game, tipping it in favor of SJO.

Ward doubled and Smith singled in SJO’s first two trips to the plate in the inning before Poulter reached on a bunt single to load the bases with no out. Hudson put the ball in play and reached on an error by Bishop McNamara, allowing Ward and Smith to score to tie the game at 5.

SJO was just getting started. Another at-bat by Martlage and another opportunity of putting the ball in play forced Bishop McNamara to make an error, scoring Poulter and putting SJO ahead 6-5.

With two outs and Hudson and Martlage on base, Dowling struck a powerful blow with a three-run home run to give SJO a 9-5 lead. The momentum kept going, with Dukeman singling and scoring on a double by Ward. By the time the inning ended, SJO enjoyed a 10-5 lead.

That lead was cut to 10-7 by the time the seventh inning rolled around, but Dukeman once again delivered. After Short was hit by a pitch and Dowling singled to right field, Dukeman pulled a home run over the left field fence to give SJO a 13-7 lead.

Those insurance runs were needed when the host Irish scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh and had the game-tying run at the plate, but Witruk was able to induce a fly out to center field, with Poulter securing the catch for the game’s final out.

SJO is set to host Mt. Zion at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday before hitting the road on Saturday for the Clinton Invitational.

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