ST. CHARLES – Maddie Candre knew what was at stake as the St. Charles East softball team hosted Geneva Tuesday afternoon.
With a win, the Saints would clinch an outright Upstate Eight Conference River Division title.
Candre and teammate Maddy Stout homered en route to an 8-3 victory, giving the senior one accomplishment of what she hopes is many in her final go-around as a Saint.
“It’s obviously a huge accomplishment,” said Candre, whose solo home run opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. “There’s definitely reason to celebrate winning the conference, but this group wants more. We want to make sure we’re ready for the postseason and can accomplish big things.”
Despite Stout following with a solo shot of her own in the second inning, the Saints (21-6, 15-1 UEC River) held just a tight 2-1 lead heading into the fifth after Geneva’s red-hot leadoff hitter Katie Keller’s opposite field home run.
After getting the first two on in the fifth, followed by a sacrifice bunt, senior Sara Campagna started what proved to be the game-deciding rally with a two-run double down the left field line. Paige Ligocki and Hannah Cozzi also added run-scoring hits in the inning, which stretched a once small deficit for the Vikings (19-6, 12-4) into a five-run hole.
East coach Jarod Gutesha has known there was something special with his mix of talent and depth, which all came full circle Tuesday in accomplishing goal number one for his group.
Gutesha echoed Candre’s thoughts of appreciating an accomplishment with much more on the horizon.
“Celebrating a conference championship is always nice. Especially at home against a quality opponent like Geneva,” Gutesha said. “Now it’s time to get ready for next week and start all the fun again for the postseason.
“This group just knows how to play. It’s a group filled with competitors. They also have an excellent dynamic as a group. They expect a lot from themselves, but they are very relaxed. When you’re relaxed and having fun playing the game, good things are going to happen.”
Freshman Katie Arrambide, whose leadoff walk started that fifth-inning rally, picked up the win for the Saints in the circle, pitching all seven innings and striking out nine Vikings.
After Arrambide’s walk, the Vikings were unable to handle a sacrifice bunt throw to first, which gave East a chance that Campagna capitalized on.
Geneva coach Greg Dierks knew giving extra outs to a team that had lost just one conference game throughout the season was not a recipe for success.
“[East] is the best team in this conference and that’s why they won today and won the conference,” Dierks said. They have proven it over and over again. It’s a challenge to try and hold them down. Most of us [in the conference] haven’t been able to do it. When they get their chances, they take advantage of them and did that when they got them today.”
The Saints had just six hits, but had a total of 11 baserunners. As Dierks mentioned team’s troubles of holding the East offense in check, Candre and Campagna know what kind of confidence comes with a big rally like Tuesday’s fifth inning.
“Once that spark hits, it’s like it makes everyone in our lineup want to hit,” Campagna said. “We may have off days, but once we get going, we have a lot of girls that can do damage.”
“I was talking to Maddy Stout in the dugout saying how we weren’t comfortable with a 2-1 lead,” Candre added. “But once Sara got that hit, it was like a domino effect and it got everyone going.”
Keller finished 3-for-3 for Geneva, with her home run and two runs driven in. Kate Geary drove in the other run for the Vikings in the loss.