CEDAR LAKE | Sometimes being nice isn't the best way to go. At least in a wild and crazy high school softball game played on a cold field with gale force winds blowing at hurricane speed.
In the fourth inning of Times No. 8 Kankakee Valley's game at Hanover Central, Wildcats batter Alyssa Howard hit a can of corn fly ball to left field that kept carrying. In a Jose Canseco-like finish, the ball hit Brianna Niemiec's glove but bounced over the fence when Breanna Toppen collided with her.
That two-run homer gave Hanover the lead. But two innings later Niemier's replacement, Sydney Pumnea, hit a wind-blown, two-run homer over the left-field fence.
"I told (Pumnea) she should thank me," Hanover coach Larry McMillen joked after his Wildcats lost to K.V. 7-6 in eight innings. "I told (K.V. coach Brian Flynn) to take (Niemiec) out and make sure she's OK. Then, her replacement goes yard on us.
"I guess that's the way this game went, crazy."
Hanover pitcher Ashley Yoways struggled with control. She only walked five Kougars (5-0), but four of them scored. K.V. senior pitcher Taurie Piatt (4-0) struck out a career-high 20 Wildcats to pick up the win.
"It was difficult throwing in this," Piatt said. "But it helped with certain pitches, like my screwball. This was a tough win to get through. I was very nervous (in the seventh inning)."
Hanover (2-3) loaded the bases in the seventh after tying the game on Melissa Balkema's double, but Piatt got the strikeout to end the inning.
In the top of the eighth, Alyssa Matson doubled home Maribeth Strong with what turned out to be the game-winner.
"I've been in a slump," Matson said. "It feels really good to get a hit like that. When I was in the batter's box my heart was racing."
Matson walked twice, scored once and had an RBI; Lexie Eggert scored twice on two walks; Morgan Cavinder added a double and a RBI; Piatt doubled and scored a run and Mia Stevens had a two-run single in the first.
"Our team just won't quit," Flynn said. "We came back three times in this game when we were down. If you got the ball up in the atmosphere, it was gone so it was a crazy kind of game.
"But (Piatt) pitched a great game in very tough conditions."
Yoways was 3-for-4 and scored three runs for Hanover. Abby Thompson was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer. Balkema also had two hits.
"This was a very winnable game," McMillen said, "but we made their pitcher look like Nolan Ryan. It was a good game between two good pitchers. We'll just keep working to get better."