WHEATFIELD | The Kankakee Valley softball team and community could use a day off today after a roller coaster three days.
After losing the "team mom" Diane Cavinder on Thursday morning, the Kougars lost to Hobart that same evening, then came back to beat Wheeler on Friday. But on Saturday morning, Times No. 2 Hanover Central jumped out to a five-run lead after two innings and never looked back in a 9-2 victory.
For K.V. (3-3), it was another day in which intestinal fortitude took center stage more than runs, hits and errors.
“It’s not easy, but the girls have the courage to come here and (senior catcher) Morgan (Cavinder) and her dad (Dave) have the courage to come out here, so we all owe it to them to come out here,” K.V. coach Brian Flynn said. “It’s been a tough four years, but it’s way more tough for (the Cavinder family).”
Four years ago, Morgan’s sister, Taylor, died as a passenger in a car accident, and on Thursday their mom succumbed to pancreatic cancer.
Flowers on the fence of the the bleachers, ribbons the K.V. players wore in their hair and the socks they wore were purple, in remembrance of Diane Cavinder.
And there was even a nice symbolic start for the Kougars on offense as freshman Mackenzie Dunlap blasted a leadoff home run over the left-field fence, her second homer in two days.
But it came after Hanover (5-0) scored three runs in the top of the inning.
“It scared me a little,” said Hanover pitcher Ashley Yoways, who struck out 17 and also went 3 for 5 with two RBIs. “I knew (Dunlap) was a good hitter, but she smashed that ball. I just had to tell myself that it was only one run. As soon as I threw (right down the middle) it I knew it was going to be hit hard.”
When Flynn was told Yoways had 17 strikeouts, he immediately remembered last year when his former pitcher, Taurie Platt, struck out 21 Hanover hitters.
“I guess turnabout is fair play,” he said. “She’s a great pitcher who changes speeds well. You have to string hits together and we didn’t do that today.”
After today are a couple more tough days with Diane’s visitation on Monday and funeral Tuesday.
Hanover opened the scoring with a two-run double from freshman Sophia Barbosa, followed by a single from senior Ivy Dawson. Junior Melissa Balkema had three hits while freshman Alexis Mokos reached base three times.
It’s a mixture Hanover coach Larry McMillen had to smile about.
“Our freshmen are really making good contact,” he said. “and the others are hitting well, too. We’re making contact one through nine in the order.”