Your World. Your Stories. Everyday.


Your World. Your Stories. Everyday.


Your World. Your Stories. Everyday.


Extra inning heroics give Senior Night a storybook ending

The Metea Valley Mustangs (12-9, 9-2) defeated the DeKalb Barbs (4-15, 1-9) 10-9 in a back-and-forth nine inning battle.

Following an on-field celebration of seniors before the game, the crowd packed full of parents and friends had plenty of offense to cheer early on.

The Barbs took advantage of an infield error, coming up with a clutch two-out RBI single to take the lead in the top half of the first frame.

But it didn’t take the Mustangs long to respond. Senior Reese Vahla dumped a hit into left, which she extended to a double by hustling into second. Then, after the throw into the infield got away, Vahla got aggressive, sliding into third just ahead of the tag. Junior Claire Desrosiers tagged a fly out to deep center that got the run home, and the two teams were square after one. 

Even in a game where defense was shaky at times, the top of the second was packed with defensive highlights, notably from senior shortstop Genevieve Gonzales. Twice in the inning she made tough picks on ground balls, making difficult plays look routine. Even after a two-out single, junior pitcher Charlie Benesh worked out of the inning and claimed momentum for the Mustangs.

Using a small ball based strategy, a sacrifice bunt attempt by senior left fielder Nora Erwin led to a wild throw, putting runners at first and third with nobody out. Then, after a diving catch robbed senior Maddie O’Neill of an RBI knock, another bunt was placed perfectly in front of the plate. Junior catcher Sydney Eakin, who originally didn’t break home, took off as the throw went to first, easily scoring to pull the Mustangs ahead 2-1.

But the lead didn’t last for long, as a single and perfect bunt that led to a wild desperation throw had the Barbs instantly threatening. After a hard grounder took a nasty hop and a pitch squirted just far away from Eakin, DeKalb suddenly had the 4-2 advantage. But the damage was limited, thanks in part to a dazzling sliding catch by senior right fielder Morgan Cleveland and a nice snag by Benesh on a comeback grounder.

Yet the resilient group of Mustangs wouldn’t trail for long. Four straight hits started the bottom of the third, including an RBI smash from Eakin. Then, O’Neill laid down a perfect bunt, barely getting thrown out, but tying the game up at 4 apiece. Then yet another senior delivered at the plate, as Cleveland deposited a 2 RBI single to left to retake the lead, putting the Mustangs ahead 6-4 at the end of three.

Still, the game continued to be topsy turny, as some more gnarly bounces and deflections troubled Mustang infielders. The inning’s troubles were capped off with an RBI sacrifice bunt from the Barbs, where the throw back to the pitcher got away and allowed a second DeKalb player to come around to score. The Mustangs trailed 8-6.

While defenses had struggled in the innings previous, the bottom of the fourth and top of the fifth went without a hitch. DeKalb’s left fielder made a Superman-esque diving snag along the foul line and the Mustang’s ran a wheel play to perfection on a bunt attempt. Benesh began to settle down, striking out two in the fifth, but needed run support to secure the win.

Eakin started the bottom of the firth by roping a single into center, then advanced to second on an Erwin bunt. O’Neill placed a soft liner perfectly on the infield, getting a second runner on base with two outs as the lineup turned over for senior Reese Valha.

“I kind of try to keep everything simple and look at it from a smaller aspect instead of like, ‘the game’s on the line’,” Valha said. “The way I stay calm is just by simplifying everything and then just keeping myself relaxed by taking deep breaths.”

Valha delivered. She lashed a double down the line in left, allowing O’Neill to sprint all the way around from first to tie the game at 8 going to the sixth.

But the Mustangs once again had their perseverance tested. A two-out double and clutch RBI single for the Barbs had Metea’s backs against the wall, with just two half innings to try to send the seniors off with a win in their final home game.

Riley O’Neil, Maddie’s twin sister, forced a tough play on her bunt, resulting in the ball popping out of the DeKalb first baseman’s glove as O’Neill reached the bag. Alertly, Gonzales, who was on second to start the play, recognized the opportunity to come home, and slid in safely to secure the 6th tie in the ballgame. The Mustangs looked poised to take the lead, but the Barbs defense came up clutch again, doubling up a runner on a liner and making another highlight reel diving catch that would have easily scored the go-ahead run.

Unlike the previous ties, this deadlock lasted for quite a while. Both teams went down in order in the seventh, forcing extra innings, where they both went 1-2-3 again in the eighth.

A leadoff DeKalb double tested Benesh, but just as she had the whole game, she worked out of it, recording a strikeout, inducing an easy pop fly to respond. Then, with two away in the inning, a Gonzales throw began to sail, but first baseman Elena Gonzalez, who came in the previous inning to pinch hit, lept to secure the ball, landing on the bag just in time to retire the side.

Now in the home half of the ninth, Riley O’Neill once again reaches on a bunt where the second baseman covering dropped the ball. She then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Eakin. Then, with 1 out and a runner on second, Erwin tattooed a single into left, but a perfect throw and tag cut down O’Neill at the plate. Still, Erwin got to second on the throw and the Mustangs still had a two out rally brewing.

Trying to end her Senior Night with a bang, Maddie O’Neill stepped up to the plate, only to be hit by the first pitch of her plate appearance, and bring Cleveland up with two on. 

“I just needed to wait for the right pitch. And, well, I didn’t get a hit but, hey, I got hit,” O’Neill said with a laugh.

Cleveland, also trying to be the hero on her Senior Night, worked a great at bat, spoiling many tough offerings from DeKalb pitcher Ayla Baty-Gould. After barely getting a piece of a 1-2 pitch, Cleveland also got plunked, setting up another 2 out opportunity for Vahla, this time to win it.

Despite a borderline call going as a strike on the first pitch, Vahla jumped on the second offering, cracking a single into left-center for the walk-off winner in her last home game.

“It was definitely a really special and fun moment to be a part of,” Vahla said. “I just think it was a lot about relaxing and having fun. Just thinking of it as a regular at-bat and trying not to put too much pressure on myself.”

After an outing of just 3.1 innings and 7 ER, Benesh bounced back, delivering a 9 inning, 8 K gem, surrendering just 1 ER. Valha showed out in her final home game with a 3-5 night with 3 RBI, including the game winning knock. Cleveland and Gonzales also had strong Senior Night performances, driving in 3 and 2 respectively.

With the win, the Mustangs move to 9-2 in conference, in first place by 2 full games. The team has 4 regular season conference games left, including the DVC Cares Game against Waubonsie Valley at Aurora University.

As the season nears an end, and the seniors reflect on their time in the program, they believe that the team’s uniquely close nature has them ready to meet any challenge.

“This is such a great team, the people here are so awesome,” O’Neill said. “The way we bonded throughout the years is a special thing, and I’m proud to say no one else has the same thing.”

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About the Contributor
Charlie Davidson
Charlie is on staff for the first time as a sports writer and he is a senior at Metea Valley. He loves following Chicago sports and spending time with family. When not cram studying or writing his next story, he is probably off tracking seven different games at once and questioning each coach’s decisions.

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