Softball: Wheeler stays in first with 4-1 win over North Newton
By Steve T. Gorches email@example.com April 22, 2013 11:20PM
Wheeler's Kristen Settele lays down a bunt in the bottom of the fifth inning of the Bearcats' home game against North Newton Monday April 22, 2013. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 24, 2013 6:29AM
VALPARAISO — After a week of nearly nonstop rain with some snow and cold thrown into the mix, it was just nice for North Newton and host Wheeler to be on the field on Monday evening.
In fact, myriad postponements meant that the two softball teams were meeting for the second time in Greater South Shore Conference round robin play while the teams have not faced some conference opponents once.
The Bearcats got off to a good start, scoring twice in the first three innings, and added a pair of runs in the fifth inning to beat the Spartans 4-1 and remain in a tie for first in the tightly contested GSSC.
“Our conference is better than people realize,” said Wheeler coach Marc Bruner. “Us and Noll are usually strong, but Lake Station is a sectional champ, North Newton is good and I don’t think people realize how good Whiting is this year.”
And going into Monday’s action, four teams were tied in the GSSC with one loss. Now there are three, but Bruner had his doubts early when it looked like a recent conference loss.
The Bearcats (4-2, 3-1 GSSC) had nine batters reach base in the first three innings — eight of them getting into scoring position — and only had the two runs.
“Against Noll we had tons of base runners and couldn’t get enough runs,” he said. “But we had some good at-bats this time. It was a big day for our freshmen.”
Those standout first-year players on Monday were Kayla Aytes with a pair of runs batted in and Angelise Vukin with three singles, a RBI and a run scored. Her biggest at-bat was with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning. She had a “Texas leaguer” bloop just behind the shortstop to score Alex Sanchez.
“I knew I needed to get a hit,” said Vukin, who is nicknamed “the Vukinator” by teammates. “I didn’t feel any pressure. I don’t really think when I’m at the plate.”
Not so coincidentally, her other two hits also came in the innings Wheeler scored.
North Newton (4-3, 3-2) coach Amanda Suarez decided to start Aubrey Spencer after she had a decent outing against Wheeler earlier this season.
“We lost 3-0 in that game, but it wasn’t her fault,” Suarez said. “I thought she earned another start against them.
“Tonight was one of the more disappointing losses. (Wheeler) didn’t overpower us and we beat ourselves.”
Among the miscues was a fielding error in the first inning that contributed to the first run and a base running error that prevented the Spartans from a possible scoring chance in the sixth inning.