FLOSSMOOR | The animated way she addressed her team following its 8-3 loss Wednesday to Sandburg was born from Homewood-Flossmoor coach Katie Rice's frustration.
"This is an awesome team," she said. "They deserve more than they are giving.
"I guarantee you, at the end of the year, this team will be rolling. This is an awesome group of girls. They have it.
"They just have to find it."
The only thing the Vikings (2-6, 0-1) found in their SouthWest Suburban Blue opener against the Eagles (8-4, 1-0) was that they might need more than six or seven healthy players. H-F had nine players available Wednesday, two of whom were nursing knee injuries while another was a call-up from the sophomore squad.
"We started the year with 13 girls," Rice said. "We're down to nine. … We've had to move girls around. In game situations, it's obvious."
H-F made six errors, four of those in the third and fourth innings as Sandburg scored four and three runs, respectively — both times with two outs. Sandburg also routinely took extra bases on H-F's inexperienced outfield.
"We were aggressive on the bases," Eagles coach Jim Fabianski said. "Any potential first and third situation ended up second and third.
"We took the extra base because they weren't hitting their cutoffs."
KellyAnn Rinearson (0-4) took the loss after allowing five runs (1 earned) on seven hits in three innings. Meagan Donermeyer pitched the final four innings, allowing three runs (none earned) and four hits.
Meanwhile, Sandburg's duo of Emily Griskell (2-1) and Sarah Herold limited the damage H-F could do with seven hits and three walks, fanning the Vikings 12 times.
The Vikings did manage to push across single runs in the first, fifth and seventh. Kayla Butler (3-for-4) scored the first run after singling and stealing second, and doubled home the next one in the form of Donermeyer (2-for-4), who got on with a one-out single. Quadrea Allen scored H-F's final run, singling to lead off the seventh and eventually coming around on a Donermeyer bunt.
"Seven unearned runs … combine that with 12 strikeouts at the plate — it's really hard to win a game like that," Rice said. "We had three earned runs. That should be a 3-1 game.
"We lost 3-2 to Andrew, another good team, and they had two unearned runs while ours were earned.
"We're going to clean those things up. We have to, or it's going to be a long year."