MATTOON -- The John A. Logan softball team was a thorn in Lake Land's side last season.
Even though Lake Land won the regular season series against the Lady Vols, they gave the Lady Lakers plenty of problems. John A. Logan split the first meeting of 2017 against Lake Land and even though the Lady Lakers swept the home doubleheader against the Lady Vols, it was only by a combined three runs in the two games.
Lake Land still had to face John A. Logan three more times, all at the Region tournament. The Lady Lakers beat the Lady Vols to open the tournament, but they worked their way back into the Region championship and forced the second game with a 6-2 win. Lake Land dispatched of John A. Logan with a 19-4 win to end the Lady Vols 2017 season.
After last season, Lake Land coach Nic Nelson expected a feisty John A. Logan team coming into Tuesday's Great Rivers Conference doubleheader.
The Lady Vols made their presence felt early with a 3-0 lead in the first game, but Lake Land quickly came back and won in six innings, 12-4. John A. Logan held onto the lead longer in the second game before a four-run sixth inning put Lake Land up and the Lady Lakers completed Tuesday's sweep with a 4-3 win.
It may be early in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference season, but it was a key doubleheader sweep for the Lady Lakers.
"It honestly was make or break conference right there," Lake Land sophomore Hope Collier said. "They are one of the top teams, Wabash is for sure going to be good, so we really needed these two wins."
Lake Land improved to 12-9 overall and 4-0 in the GRAC. John A. Logan fell to 2-4 on the season and 2-2 in the GRAC.
"(John A. Logan) is someone you never take lightly. Their coach does a good job," said Nelson, who started working on the field at 6 a.m. because of the recent weather. "The girls went through some adversity. I wasn't happy with how we handled counts and we will get there. But they came back in a really big style to win."
Lake Land's next action is scheduled for today (Wednesday) with a doubleheader at Southeastern Illinois College.
After the Lady Vols got off to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, Haylee Short started a Lake Land rally in the top of the first with a triple. She scored on a hit by Sullivan and Sullivan later came around to score on wild pitch. Lake Land tied the game when Addison Baele drove in Allison Helton.
"The girls stayed calm and went through it," Nelson said. "The girls started hitting the ball and got a rally going early."
After holding the Lady Vols scoreless in the top of the second inning, Lake Land took the lead in the bottom half of the frame. The Lady Lakers scored three runs to go up 6-3.
Lake Land added to the lead in the third. With two outs, Delanie Johnson doubled and scored on a throwing error on Madeline Adams’ ground ball. Adams went to second on the error and scored on Alina Lance’s single to put Lake Land up 8-3.
The Lady Vols tried to rally in the fifth inning and put one run on the board. But LLC pitcher Braylyn Burdick limited the damage. With two on and one out, she got a fly out and a strikeout to get out of the jam.
Burdick went all six innings and only gave up a few hits after a shaky first inning.
"I told the kids, if you are going to give up runs, give them up early because we have plenty of time to score," LLC pitching coach Denny Throneburg said. "Our offense took over and I thought she pitched well after that first inning."
Lake Land started another two-out rally in the bottom of sixth. Molly McElwee and Baele were on base when Collier singled to bring in McElwee. Baele scored on a fielding error on Johnson’s ground ball. Adams ended the game with a single that scored Collier and Johnson to give Lake Land a 12-4 win.
John A. Logan broke through in the fourth inning of the second game with two runs. The Lady Vols added a run in the fourth inning. Sarah Aldridge led off with a double and scored on Dedecker’s two-out double for a 3-0 lead.
Lake Land missed on a couple of opportunities in the fourth and fifth innings but came through in the sixth. McElwee and Johnson had back-to-back singles with one out and then Lance followed with a single to bring in both runners to make it a one-run game.
Then Collier followed with a line drive that cleared the centerfield fence for a two-run home run that game Lake Land a 4-3 lead.
"I've been hitting pretty shaky until now. I just went up there with as much confidence as I could have, kept my eye on the ball and hit the ball," Collier said. "It was a hittable pitch, so I knew I for sure had to swing at it. My idea was to get a nice line drive. Alina gave us a lot of energy. We were completely dead before her hit. That gave me confidence in the box."
Nelson said it was a key time for a couple of his sophomores to step up.
"What was bothering me was we had six players on base and didn't score a run. They had seven on base and scored three runs. We had the people there and one timely hit would've done good," Nelson said. "But they bounced back. My sophomores have been dragging. So to see Alina get that hit and Hope get that hit, that was really big. They needed that and hopefully that will get us running and going."
Samantha Forrest, who came in to pitch in the fifth inning, set John A. Logan down in order in the seventh to complete the Lady Lakers sweep. Forrest gave up only two hits in the final three innings.
"I thought she threw well and she threw well at Volunteer State a couple of weeks ago," Throneburg said. "I told the girls after, this is a long grind and there will be a lot of ups and downs, so when you are called on, go out and do your job. She held them where we needed to hold them and the offense took over. Big doubleheader win and I thought the kids threw well."