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Softball: Olivia Ortegel, Kaneland use base running to drop DeKalb

Ortegel's delayed steal of home the difference in 2-1 Knights' win

MAPLE PARK – The Kaneland bats weren't putting pressure on DeKalb Thursday, so the Knights used their base running to get to the Barbs.

Both Kaneland runs came courtesy of steals as the Knights edged the Barbs 2-1 in a Northern Illinois Big 12 East battle between the two clubs.

"If you can't put the pressure on the defense with the bats, you have to put the pressure on the defense with the base running," Kaneland coach Mike Kuefler said. "We were able to do that today, and that was big for us."

Kaneland (8-2, 3-1) took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth when Olivia Ortegel scored on a delayed steal of home. After reaching on a single, she moved to third when Maddy Wheatley reached on an error.

During the next at-bat, Wheatley took off for second, and Ortegel took off for the plate on the throw to second to score the go-ahead run.

Ortegel said once she was sure the ball was out of the catcher's hand and not getting cut off, she took off.

"I was staring at home, and I was just ready for it," Ortegel said.

Kaneland's first run also came about through base stealing – leadoff hitter Donatella Sommesi walked in the first inning, stole second, then stole third and reached on an error.

DeKalb coach Haley Albamonte said that overall the defense was solid, but the errors the team made were untimely and costly.

"It's disappointing, but it's also encouraging knowing we can fix those," Albamonte said. "It's definitely fixable. With a little fine tuning, we'll be ready to take them later this year."

DeKalb (3-6, 1-2) tied the game in the top of the third when Katelyn Kolkebeck homered to right-center, with the ball clanging off the top of the fence.

It was the only run allowed by starter McKenna Ryan, who allowed five hits in 3 1/3 innings. She was pulled when DeKalb got runners to second and third with one out in the fourth.

"She had a rough start against Geneseo, and we wanted her to have a good start today," Kuefler said. "DeKalb does have some good hitters over there, and she held those kids down for four innings, held them to one run and allowed us to do our job."

Rylee Levine and Emma Friedlund started the fourth with singles, then Katie Taylor bunted them over. Emilee Erickson came on to face pinch-hitter Aubrae Lewis and got her to pop out to third base. Erickson struck out Jadyn Ensign to end the threat.

Ashley Nelson allowed four hits and no earned runs in taking the loss. She struck out seven.

"I think Ashley Nelson was spot on," Albamonte said. "She did a really good job of keeping the hitters off balance. She was consistent for us, and that was huge. I think a couple untimely errors cost us there, and they're a great base-running team. They're a great team all-around, and to hold them to 2-1 like that was pretty impressive. I'm proud of our girls."

By the numbers: Amanda DuBeau and Mallory Warner each had a hit and a walk for the Barbs, as did Sommesi.

Beyond the stats: DuBeau had a pair of strong defensive plays in the sixth, diving to stop a grounder and beating Ortegel to the bag with the throw. After the Barbs' third error of the game, DuBeau elevated to snag a liner off the bat of Emma Bachio, then doubled Wheatley off at first to end the inning.

Up next: The Barbs and Knights both start Kaneland's tournament at 4 p.m. Friday, with the hosts playing St. Charles North on the varsity field and DeKalb facing Batavia on the JV field. The teams will play games at 10 a.m. Saturday, then face each other at noon.

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