LANSING | There were literal explosions — bombs bursting in air during the national anthem — before T.F. South and Illiana Christian faced off in their third annual neutral-site meeting Saturday night at the Lansing Sports Complex.
Once the game started, the figurative fireworks were few — though pitcher Devin Pieper was a sparkler for the Rebels.
The freshman limited Illiana to four hits over seven innings, striking out eight as the Rebels won the crosstown rivalry 6-2. Yes, it is a rivalry, though T.F. South's biggest is T.F. North and Illiana Christian's is Chicago Christian.
"I'd say this is a real, real close second," Pieper said. "It's the Battle of Lansing."
The Rebels (13-11) battled well in winning their fifth straight. The Vikings (9-9) mostly battled themselves.
"That was horrible," Illiana coach Mike Oppenhuis said. "We did exactly the things we talked about not doing — not being ready, not knowing where to go, not communicating. It was not a good night for our best player to have her worst game of the season."
Oppenhuis was referring to his daughter and third baseman, Sam, who made three of the Vikings' eight errors. Her bad night began early, when she let a cue shot from the Rebels' No. 2 hitter, Sydney Harrison, bounce off her glove in the first inning.
Harrison eventually scored on a throwing error. Cori Reynolds, who reached on a base hit, came around on a wild pitch to stake South to a 2-0 lead.
Illiana got one back in the third on Natalie Vander Woude's triple to right-center, followed by Kat Witting's line single to center. Otherwise, Pieper dominated, getting further scratched only for an unearned run in the seventh.
"Her focus the last two games have been phenomenal," South coach Jamie Arundel said. "(Friday) night against Eisenhower, if was one walk and 10 strikeouts. She's taking charge of the count, limiting her walks."
Meanwhile, Illiana kept handing South opportunities.
"I was happy we kept taking advantage," Pieper said.
In the fourth, South put together four hits — three of the infield variety, two of which might have gone as outs if picked up by a more decisive infielder — and an error to to push across two more runs. Two more Rebels runs came in Illiana's four-error sixth inning.
"We got some timely hits when we needed them," Arundel said, noting RBI singles from Reynolds and Daviea Cowans in the fourth. "This is a nice little streak we're on, and that's a nice win — the showdown in Lansing, showing them whose town this is."