CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Though they would have you believe otherwise, there are differences between the five freshmen starters among Marian Catholic's Spartans and their older teammates.
Witness freshman center fielder Susie Baranski's analysis of what senior shortstop Alex Nickel tabbed as "the play" of Marian's 7-4 win Tuesday against Beecher.
"I saw the ball," Baranski said solemnly, "and I threw it."
Then there were Nickel's two cents worth:
"Susie's play, when she nailed that girl at home, that stopped (Beecher)," she said. "They were starting to come back, then she makes a play that gets our whole entire team up."
The host Spartans (10-7) entered the fourth inning leading 5-0, Nickel having driven in three runs with a first-inning single and a double in the second, and pitcher Allison Spencer holding the Bobcats (19-4) hitless through three. Spencer got the first Beecher batter of the fourth, but a walk, two singles and two errors made it 5-2 with one out and the bases loaded for Isabella Woolslayer.
Woolslayer lashed a single to center. Baranski charged the ball and threw a strike to another freshman, Meghan Henson, getting Emily Landis at the plate.
"It was a nice play by Meghan, too," Baranski said. "She had to block the plate."
Henson had another gem in the sixth, bouncing up from behind the plate to catch a bunt popped foul after the Bobcats put two on with one out. Spencer (3-3) ended the frame by snaring a liner back up the middle.
In the seventh, freshman second baseman Madison Kapers caught a line drive and doubled a Beecher runner off first to dim another threat.
"We had so many people step up in so many ways," Marian coach Kerri Evans said. "We had smart base-running, timely hitting, some nice defensive plays."
The Spartans have won four straight to hit their high-water mark for the year.
Beecher, meanwhile, has lost three straight.
"(Monday) we got down 5-0, (Tuesday) we got down 5-0," coach Kevin Hayhurst said. "You can't start ballgames like that against any opponent, let alone good teams. It's something we haven't done most of the year.
"My goodness, this is the time you have to tighten things up."
Sarah Crews (10-3) took the loss, despite doing her part offensively by reaching base four times, scoring a run and driving one in. Kapers and Henson each scored twice for Marian, while Spencer helped her own cause with an RBI single in the first.