HCC Softball 14-1

By Bob Balgemann


LOVES PARK – They knew ahead of time that they had wrapped up second place in the Harlem Community Center’s summer softball league,

That was because they had won both earlier meetings with their regular season-ending opponent.

But that didn’t stop the O’Donnell squad, aka the Belvidere Buzz, from wanting to head into the Aug. 1 tournament on a positive note.

They were upset a couple of nights before that despite rallying from a 17-4 deficit to lead, 23-20. But Lombardi (4-7) scored four times in the bottom of the seventh inning to score a 24-23 upset.

So the question of resilience came to mind July 23 in what was a tournament tune-up for O’Donnell (9-3), sponsored by Park License Service, and third-place Thayer (7-5), sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings.

In a high-scoring affair O’Donnell, named for head coach Mike O’Donnell, rebounded with a 21-11 win.

The Buzz led, 4-3, after the first inning. “You won that inning,” Coach Mike told them. “One at a time.”

They also won the second inning, 8-5, for an overall 12-8 lead. Things got a bit dicey after that as Thayer came back with two runs in the third and one in the fourth to make it a 12-11 game. But the Buzz countered big time, scoring five runs in the bottom of the fourth to go up, 17-11.

That pretty much did it.

The top of the Buzz batting order did most of the damage this night. Most of them are charter members of the team that split away from Belvidere Youth Baseball four years ago.

Makayla House, Bailey Kroos, Julie O’Donnell, Lily Czechowicz and Karli Tillema were on base 19 times, scoring 14 runs and recording 11 RBIs.

Robbed of a hit

Tillema (3-for-4) led the way by driving in five runs, with key two-run hits, one of them a double, in the second and fourth innings. She would have been a perfect 4-for-4 had not Thayer second baseman Veronika Bienvenu speared her line drive while running hard left in the second inning.

Mckinzie Sharp accounted for three runs in the big second inning. She lined hard to left and rounded the bases after the ball was misplayed for a four-base error. Czechowicz and Tillema were on the base at the time.

Thayer, named for Theresa Thayer, head freshman softball coach at Harlem High School, tried to catch up but ran out of gas in the later innings.

Hers is a team with speed that runs the bases aggressively as seen in the third inning, when it was still in the game.

Paige Yoeman walked with one out and stole second. Nova Jackson grounded to short and while the play was being made, Yoeman scored all the way from second base to narrow the deficit to 12-10.

While pleased with the victory, coach O’Donnell talked afterward about the need for his team to be ready for the tournament.

That means attending upcoming practice sessions and being strong defensively in the early innings. “Slowly, we’re crumbling on defense,” he said.

Finishing second in the league was a good thing and he was pleased with that. But he’d like to add the tournament championship to the list of accomplishments in this the Buzz’s final season with most of the girls on this team.

Standing in the way of doing that is undefeated, regular season champion Brassfield, sponsored by the Loves Park Fire Department. Brassfield won two regular season meetings with the Buzz and its goal is to win the tournament and be undefeated the whole way.

HCC Softball 14-2

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