Marian Catholic junior right fielder Rebecca Stanton jumped a little higher than normal when she rounded first base and saw her three-run homer clear the center field fence.
“I think I was just excited because it gave us more of a lead and our team was so excited about it,” Stanton said after her sixth inning blast powered the Spartans to an 8-3 victory over Oak Forest on Friday afternoon in Oak Forest. “And I knew we would play better with a bigger lead.”
Stanton has been giving Marian Catholic leads all season long with her long-ball hitting. She connected on an 0-1 pitch from Oak Forest’s Emily Larsen for her eighth homer—this one serving as the knockout punch for the Spartans. The irony is a few minutes earlier they were on the ropes.
Emily Naegele’s solo homer in the bottom of the third staked the Bengals to a 3-1 lead in a battle with playoff implications and a playoff atmosphere. A big crowd turned out to watch the two teams go at it on a chilly afternoon. Fans were rewarded with a home run derby.
Marian Catholic’s Alex Nickel tied the score 3-3 with a solo blast. Stanton, after being retired three straight times by Larsen, finally made an adjustment in the batter’s box before picking on a pitch to her liking.
“It was a changeup outside,” Stanton said. “That’s pretty much where she was throwing me all day. I wanted to go for it—I just waited. I got in the mindset where it was going outside and adjusted. I just scooted in a little bit.”
Marian Catholic (18-7) is scooting along as the postseason draws nearer, too. The Spartans are developing a never-say-die identity that could thrust them into the limelight in the Class 3A playoffs. Earlier, they rallied from a 7-1 deficit to defeat Sandburg.
“We don’t really like being down, but we’re the type of team that will come back in any situation,” Stanton said. “I think it’s just because we have so much heart and we want it so badly. We just continue to play.”
And, while Nickel and Stanton supply much of the fireworks, Marian can pick up offense from almost anywhere in its lineup. Kelly Foley and Lyndsey Trump each had two hits against Oak Forest. Both drove in runs. Jennifer LaBella and Allison Spence doubled.
“Coming into the season—we lost so much from last year—we didn’t know what it was going to be like,” Marian Catholic coach Kerri Evans said. “But the thing this team has is they never give up ever.
“No matter what the score is, no matter what the situation is, they’re always pushing. Not many teams have that. This team does."
Not many have a bopper like Stanton, either. She stood tall next to Naegele on the home run stage.
“I think it was a great treat,” Stanton said of the opporltunity to watch the two sluggers blast off the launching pad. “I think it was gut-wrenching for all the fans. When she hit it, they were excited. When I hit it, our fans were excited.
“Yeah, they got what the paid for—if they paid anything at all—in this cold weather.”
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