Softball: Ashley Yoways, Melissa Balkema make adjustments, lead Hanover to win; Andrean cruises
By John O’Malley Post-Tribune correspondent May 23, 2013 11:04PM
Teammates surround Hanover Central's Jaime Frost after her catch in center field ended their game against Kankakee Valley Thursday afternoon at Kankakee Valley. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 25, 2013 6:36AM
WHEATFIELD — Up until the second season began, Hanover Central’s Ashley Yoways struggled throwing outside pitches, while teammate Melissa Balkema had a glitch in her swing.
Yet each athlete spent extra time trying to overcome their struggles.
The extra work paid off handsomely for the Wildcats in a 1-0 win over Kankakee Valley (23-7) in the first semifinal game of the Class 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional on Thursday night.
Defending state champion Andrean (19-8) whipped Rensselaer in the second game, 10-0, and will face Hanover Central (16-9) in the title game at 5 p.m. Friday.
Yoways spent time working with her private pitching coach, Leslie Malerich, a former Merrillville High School all-state pitcher, at Dave Griffin’s Baseball School.
Malerich, who went on to star at Florida State University and with the Italian Olympic team, helped Yoways correct her minor problems throwing outside pitches.
Balkema, meanwhile, took extra batting practice. She hit more than 100 pitches to help overcome what Wildcats head coach Larry McMillen termed “dipping” at the plate prior to the team’s last two games.
Balkema went 2-for-2, including a double, and drove in the game’s only run with a two-out single in the third inning.
“I just waited for (my pitch), let it get a little deeper, and then just took it to right-center,’’ Balkema said.
Yoways allowed four hits and fanned five as the Wildcats avenged a 7-6 loss to KV in eight innings earlier this season.
“Today, I was just really on I thought,’’ Yoways said. “(Malerich) just got me back in the groove, because I couldn’t throw outside, and today, I really needed too.
“My teammates really helped me a lot. All of these girls saved my butt today.’’
The Kougars’ best chance to score against Yoways came in the top of the fifth inning when they put runners at second and third with one out.
Kankakee Valley coach Brian Flynn called for a squeeze play, but Maribeth Strong was called out on a close play at the plate.
Yoways later escaped the jam by getting Morgan Cavinder to pop out.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of my kids,’’ Flynn said. “They fought to the end they had a great season.’’
In the nightcap, Savannah Kinsella had a pair of doubles and drove in three runs to lead Andrean, which broke a scoreless tie with a five-run third inning.
“When it comes to the postseason, that first sectional game sets the tone for the entire postseason,’’ Andrean coach Brooke Baker-Runyon said. “We worked on our perfect 21 defense and a sense of urgency at the plate. What I’m most proud of tonight is that our team — which has a hard time letting the ball get deep as hitters, showed patience. Our main goal tonight was to hit the ball up the middle and go opposite field and we did a good job doing that tonight.’’