Erin Metz struggled with apparent ankle discomfort in the pitching circle, but that didn’t stop her from giving her team everything they had.
Wheaton North first-year pitcher Metz struck out eight strikes and went the distance in a 10 innings game on Wednesday. She also won at bat to help her cause, netting the 10th lead to send the Falcons past St. Charles East 2-1 in the DuKane Conference race.
In doing so, Metz beat St. Charles East junior Izzy Howe, who turned out magnificent with a career-high 19 strikeouts in a full play effort and was 3 for 4 at plate with one more homerun.
“It’s amazing to see a first-year pitcher come here with this cool,” Wheaton North coach Zach Peterselli said of Metz. “And fight every hitter against such a great team.”
St. Charles East (23-6, 11-2) missed a chance to win the DuKane Conference title, but can do so with a win over Batavia on Thursday. Wheaton North (19-6, 11-3) will need a loss for the Saints to share the championship.
Howe led the third inning with a solo homerun to take the lead. Wheaton North’s Lauren Vaughn had a solo shot in the fifth to tie, her eighth of the season.
The Saints almost regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth after Chelsea Campagna made a mistake and Howe hit a single to put her in goal scoring position. Abby Arend scored in left field, but the throw and throw from shortstop Ellie Hubbard cut Campagna without slipping to preserve the tie.
In 10th, Falcons rookie Monica Kading moved up to first place on a third abandoned strike. Kading moved up to second on a passed ball, allowing Metz to cut a single RBI to take a 2-1 lead.
“Obviously, it’s stressful to get into [the at bat]. Nobody scores. I was just waiting for that throw and was hoping not to retire obviously, ”said Metz.
Saints senior Elliott Sanders hit a single with a strikeout late in the 10th, but Metz came back to take Kayla Richardson and Katie Arrambide out on a pitch.
The Falcons ended their regular season with a three-game winning streak. The Saints have lost back-to-back games and have three more regular-season games ahead of what could turn into a deeper playoff run behind Arrambide and Howe.
“[Howe’s] been off and going well, ”said St. Charles East coach Jarod Gutesha. “She did a great job for us.