Kaneland got a big boost from the top of its batting order on Monday as the Knights defeated host West Aurora 10-3.
The first three hitters in the Knights’ lineup – Delani Vest, Allyson O’Herron and Paige Kuefler – combined for eight hits, eight runs and seven runs batted in.
“The first two set the table and then the big hitters hit the ball hard,” said Kaneland coach Brian Willis. “It’s a good formula if you can use it every game.”
Kuefler, a freshman who has already settled in to the No. 3 spot in the lineup, went 4-for-4 with six RBI and three runs scored. Willis said the young third baseman is seeing the ball well at the plate.
“She’s (Kuefler) seeing the ball like it’s a beach ball and she’s hitting that ball hard,” said Willis.
The Knights got on the board early with a three-run first inning that included RBI singles from Kuefler and Lexi Roach. The speedy Roach reached base four times in the game and stole three bases.
O’Herron and Kuefler both had RBI singles in the second inning as Kaneland (13-4) extended its lead to 5-0.
West Aurora (3-12) scored their first runs in the third inning as Alexis Harkless’ two-run single cut the Knights’ lead to 5-2.
However, Kaneland quickly responded with a three-run fourth inning. The Knights took an 8-2 lead thanks to a two-run double by Kuefler and a RBI groundout from McKinzie Mangers.
Kuefler capped off her strong performance with a two-run single in the fifth inning that gave the Knights a 10-2 lead.
Even though she’s only a freshman, Kuefler said her teammates have made it easy for her to play at the varsity level.
“I’ve felt really good all year. I came on to a team that’s welcomed me,” said Kuefler. “My teammates make me feel comfortable and I got used to varsity pretty fast.”
Harkless added a RBI double to deep left field in the fifth inning to cut the score to 10-3. The catcher led West Aurora on offense, reaching base three times and driving in all three Blackhawk runs.
West Aurora committed four errors as the team lost its third straight game. Blackhawks coach Sara Nagy said her team has fallen back into some bad habits after a stretch of three wins in four games.
“We were just back on our heels today and hanging our heads. We’ve been moving forward, and this was kind of a step back for us,” said Nagy. “We’ve got two days of practice coming up and that will help us refocus and get back on a good note.”
I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here.