Softball starts state run with 12-2 run-rule win over Evanston


Alex Burstein

The scoreboard at Evanston Township High School after Lane’s 12-2 win on May 24.

By Alex Burstein, Editor-in-Chief

With a 2-2 count and two runners on in the bottom of the first, second baseman Natalie Toledo gave Lane all the run support they would need in their IHSA regional semifinal tilt with the Evanston Wildkits.

[Evanston pitcher Maya Nelson] should not have thrown it right there because it’s where I love it,” Toledo said.

Toledo sent that outside fastball past the center field fence for a three-run home run, expanding Lane’s lead to 4-0. Lane would tack on eight more runs the next five innings, but four runs would have been enough, as the defense did their job in a 12-2 six inning run-rule win for second-seeded Lane over 13th-seeded Evanston, the regional host, on May 24.

The early lead was crucial, according to Head Coach Samantha Nikolich.

“It just kind of sets us up already on a good foot,” Nikolich said after the win. “Puts the girls in a good mood. And just scoring first is always helpful.”

The two teams went into the matchup without much knowledge of each other. Despite the seed advantage for Lane, Evanston tried a mix of strategies, from bunting early on to pitching low in the zone to try to catch Lane off guard.

“We didn’t play Evanston at all this season,” Nikolich said. “So we didn’t really know what they [were] capable of. So I’m really proud of the girls for continuing to put the ball in play and take advantage.”

Eventually, Lane would pull away. But the Wildkits, who were playing to keep their season going, would not go away early. After giving up four runs in the bottom of the first, Evanston scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by center fielder Kelsey Blickenstaff in the next inning.

After that though, ace Kailey Hancock and the Lane Tech defense got back on track.

“I think we pushed through and we kept focusing on what we could control and limiting our errors from there on out,” Toledo said.

The Wildkit offense scored just once more, in the fifth inning, while Lane would score in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings to cap off the victory.

“I think they did a really great job of shaking [the early run] off and just adjusting and communicating after that,” Nikolich said.

Toledo, who said she thinks Lane has the talent to go all the way, thinks the team now just needs to improve their energy as they head into the rest of the postseason.

“I think we just need to work on keeping our energy up the whole game,” Toledo said. “Just keep it going.”

Lane now advances to the regional final game, where they will take on 7-seed Maine West. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m. on May 27 at Evanston Township High School.