OAK FOREST | There are more reasons to play some softball games than merely to win. If there weren't, Kevin Hayhurst would never have scheduled the week his Beecher Bobcats began Monday.
After a 7-6 loss to Oak Forest, Beecher will try to erase the sting of a gallant comeback falling short with today's visit to Marian Catholic. Then the Bobcats travel Wednesday to Sandburg, and on Thursday to Manteno.
There's not a losing record in the bunch — or a school that doesn't have at least 250 or more students than Beecher's enrollment of 372.
It will be a change for the Bobcats, who have posted their 19 wins — against three losses — by an average of 10.2 runs.
"Our swings had been getting pretty long," Hayhurst said. "This week and next week, day in and day out, we're going to see some real good pitchers. … In the long run, it's definitely something that will help our hitters."
Beecher fared well against Oak Forest's powerful left-hander, Emily Larsen (9-4). They had 16 hits on the day — seven of nine players in the starting lineup had at least two each — but ultimately stranded 15 baserunners.
Twice, Oak Forest second baseman Shannon Coyle made diving stops and flipped the ball with her glove to shortstop Marissa Padilla for rally-killing forceouts, and the Bengals (14-7) made at least three other highlight reel-worthy defensive plays.
"That second baseman saved a few runs," Hayhurst conceded. "Give them credit. We had some balls we hit hard and couldn't get anything out of it."
Oak Forest dinged Beecher starter Mallory Ivers for a run in the second and three more in the third. Sarah Crews came on in relief, giving up a run in the fourth to make it 5-0.
Crews (3-for-3, two walks, two RBIs) spearheaded the Bobcats' fifth-inning comeback, starting with a leadoff walk and driving in the tying run with the last of her team's six singles in the frame.
Trailing 6-5 in the seventh, Crews again brought Beecher back. Her RBI double scored Savannah Stluka, who'd led off with a single.
For the second time in a three-inning span, however, Oak Forest's Calie Delisi had an answer. Putting the ball very nearly where she'd slashed a fifth-inning RBI double, she drove home the winning run with a slicing single.
"You never want to start a tough week with a loss," Hayhurst said. "But there's some things we've got to clean up. It was not a good game as far as some baserunning things, some defensive lapses.
"But you know, the kids will remember things a lot more from a one-run game."