By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – Harlem and Belvidere North softball teams have played some entertaining NIC-10 games in recent years.

Strong pitching usually was an overriding factor and that was the case again April 11, when they tangled at the Harlem Community Center complex to open the 2016 conference season.

Harlem won, 2-1.

Sophomore Elle Adams and her Lady Blue Thunder counterpart were locked in a scoreless duel when the visitors edged ahead, 1-0, in the top of the sixth inning. Key hits for North came from BreannaKiran, who singled, and Bailey Neiber, whose double brought in the go-ahead run.

All that did was inspire Harlem to get on the board for the first time by playing some station-to-station softball in the bottom of the sixth.

Megen Johnson walked, was sacrificed to second by Olivia Penney and scored when Kirstin Fudge singled down the left-field line.

North put one runner on base in the top of the seventh, but she stayed there. Then it was time for another of those two-out rallied. Sophomore Catie Bolding, a newcomer to the varsity, walked and then Bianca Barone walked with two out, putting the winning run on second base. Mackenzie Lawrence remained hot at the plate with a single up the middle to score the winning run.

The Lady Huskies (4-2, 2-0) put together some more late-game heroics in their second conference game of the season, in which they defeated Rockford East, 11-1, on the road.

It was scoreless when Barone singled to lead off the third inning. Lawrence got on base again, this time reaching on an error. Then Johnson took the first pitch “downtown,” for a three-run homer and a 3-0 lead.

East pulled to within 3-1 when the Lady Huskies put the game away with a five-run sixth.

MadalynnFajardo, the starting and winning pitcher, helped herself by leading off the inning with a single. Barone laced a double to the fence, putting runners at second and third. Then Lawrence walked to load the bases.

Johnson didn’t let that opportunity slip by as she singled, driving in two runs. Penney followed with another two-run hit, a double, and Victoria Bevins singled in the fifth run to make it an 8-1 game.

Harlem, which had 13 hits for the day, scored the final three runs in the top of the seventh with Barone at the head of it by walking. The bases soon were loaded after Lawrence again walked, and Johnson was hit by a pitch.

The first Harlem run scored in the person of Barone, when the East hurler threw an illegal pitch. Lawrence came home on a passed ball, then Johnson picked up an RBI with a single.

Fajardo, who played on the junior varsity team last spring, picked up her second varsity win of the season. She pitched a complete game that included six strikes and just one walk.

The Lady Huskies will be back in action today (Thursday) with a conference home game against Belvidere, starting at 5 p.m. at the HCC complex. On Friday and Saturday, they will be at St. Charles East for an invitational.

NIC-10 play will resume Monday with a key game at rival Hononegah, beginning at 5 p.m. Harlem will get a day off after a busy stretch of games, then resume action on Wednesday, at home against another tough league opponent, Boylan.

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