A slogan is written on the back of Lincoln-Way East assistant softball coach Jamie Ende’s jersey.
One Team, One Goal, One Heart.
The question is whether that should be One Hart.
Lincoln-Way East rode the pitching of senior standout Kacyee Hart and the hitting of junior catcher Sam Stewart to a 4-1 victory over rival Sandburg on Wednesday in Frankfort.
Hart (9-3) allowed one run on five hits during her six-inning stint on the mound. She retired nine of the first 10 batters she faced and took a no-hitter into the fourth. And she showed her heart when the going got tough in the top of the fifth.
Sandburg put runners on second and third with nobody out after Hart yielded a single to Karli McLaughlin and a double to Sarah Herold. Hart, a three-year regular, called on her vast experience pitching in tight spots to work out the jam unscathed.
She coaxed Sandburg’s Meghan McPolin and Katie Guska to go down on pop-ups and then retired Eagle leadoff hitter Karissa Kouchis on a 1-3 comebacker that she fielded herself.
Sandburg finally dented the scoreboard in the top of the sixth. Amanda Barna doubled and scored on Ellie Forkin’s sacrifice fly. But it was too little, too late as East’s Chrisi Mizera was summed to work the seventh. She retired all three batters she faced to earn the save for the Griffins.
The win for Hart was her first in varsity play over Sandburg.
“It’s a great feeling to go ahead and achieve one of the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season,” Lincoln-Way East coach Elizabeth Pawlicki said. “I’m very excited and very happy for the girls.”
Pawlicki was impressed with Hart’s command in the pitcher’s circle. She worked with Stewart to move the ball up-and-down, in-and-out against the Eagles and changed speeds to keep Sandburg’s hitters from digging in at the plate.
“Kacyee did a great job on the mound,” Pawlicki said. “She did what we asked her to do—come out and throw strikes, have confidence in her defense. We play together as a team. That’s all we can ask for.”
Stewart calls the pitches from her perch behind the plate. And, from her perspective, the Hart she saw in the circle was dialed in to heart-pounding rhythm.
“Kacyee had very good movement today,” Stewart said. “It was awesome. Her speed was nice. She knew how to hit the corners. We knew some of their batters. So, we utilized that. She was just all-around good today.”
And clutch, too.
“I just tried to work them in-and-out, just to throw them off a bit,” Hart said. “And Sam (Stewart) did a nice job calling the pitches. She knows how to call a good game. I’ve been in situations like that (in the fifth) millions of times. I had confidence and I knew I could do it.”
One Team. One Goal. And One Hart? On this occasion, all it took for Lincoln-Way East's senior pitching standout to wriggle out of trouble was a bit of heart.