Losing streaks are never easy to deal with.
But thanks to Kaylee Ward and Ashtyn Cromwell, the four-game skid the St. Joseph-Ogden High School team endured during the past week is no more.
The Spartans cruised to a 14-3 home win in five innings against Prairie Central on Tuesday afternoon in Illini Prairie Conference play. The win against the Hawks came after SJO started the week with a 4-1 nonconference loss on Monday at Herscher.
Ward went 2 for 3 with a grand slam and wound up with six RBI to pace SJO’s offense, while Cromwell threw a complete game in the win against Prairie Central.
Bailey Dowling (3 for 3, two RBI, three runs scored), Savannah Smith (1 for 2, two RBI), Katie Poulter (1 for 3, two RBI) and Audrey Short (1 for 1, three runs scored) also contributed.
SJO (14-5, 3-2 Illini Prairie) didn’t wait long to go ahead of Prairie Central. With one out in the bottom of the first inning, Dowling doubled and advanced to third on a single by Hannah Dukeman.
Smith then singled to center with two outs to plate both Dowling and Dukeman, giving SJO an early 2-0 lead.
The Spartans’ offense was just getting started, though.
Lauren Trankina opened the second inning with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sophie Martlage. Short reached on an infield single, advancing Trankina to third base and then Reagan Crippen also reached on an infield single to load the bases.
Dowling then delivered an RBI single to increase SJO’s lead to 3-0, setting the stage for Ward. With two outs, Ward drilled a grand slam over the center field fence to put SJO ahead 7-0.
Smith then followed suit with a walk before Poulter hit a two-run home run to center field, giving the Spartans a 9-0 lead.
SJO padded its lead with three runs in the third to go ahead 12-0. Short and Crippen both walked with one out and Short came around to score on an RBI single by Dowling. After a walk to Dukeman loaded the bases, Ward came through again with a two-run single to right field, scoring Dowling and Dukeman to make it 12-0.
Prairie Central trimmed SJO’s lead to 12-3 with a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth, but the Spartans ended the game early because of the 10-run rule in the bottom of the fifth.
Martlage and Short both walked to lead off the frame and then Crippen put the ball in play, reaching on an error that ultimately allowed courtesy runner Jaycee Lewis and Short to score, ending the game with a 14-3 win by the Spartans.
Cromwell scattered seven hits in the pitcher’s circle, giving up three runs (one earned) while striking out five and walking one.
The loss to Herscher saw five errors hurt the Spartans, who only managed two hits.
Dowling gave SJO a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning with a solo home run over the left field fence, but Ward added the only other hit for the Spartans on a bunt single in the top of the sixth.
Ward’s hit loaded the bases with one out as the Spartans trailed 3-1 after walks to Dowling and Dukeman, but the Spartans couldn’t push across a run.
Zoey Witruk started and lasted four innings, giving up only two hits and one run while striking out nine and walking two. Hannah Lewis was the tough-luck loser, throwing two innings of hitless relief and giving up three unearned runs.
SJO is set to return to the field at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday at St. Thomas More before the Spartans host Casey-Westfield at 5 p.m. on Friday.