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Oakville girls defeat Rockwood 4-2; return to final four of state tourney

October 19, 2005 - By STEPHEN GLOVER

For the Call

The Oakville Senior High School softball team will return to the final four of the state tournament for the second consecutive year.

The Tigers (21-6, 4-3 Suburban West) defeated Rockwood Summit 4-2 Saturday afternoon to return to state. Though the 2005 season may appear similar to last season, the Oakville team deep down knows the differences between the two.

For instance, the Tigers were 6-4 in their first 10 games of the 2005 campaign as opposed to last season's 8-2 start with four shutouts. In fact, some had written off Oakville by the 10th game of the '05 season and the hopes and dreams of another trip to the final four were just that, a dream.

"A lot of people had written us off at the beginning of the season," Oakville head coach Rich Sturm told the Call. "We had to do some soul searching to answer some questions as a team."

But after the Tigers' 3-1 loss to Lafayette Sept. 8, something happened. It was then and there that Sturm had a heart-to-heart chat with his players about who they were, how they were playing and just where they wanted to go this season.

"Our team attitude and leadership is what put us over the top," Sturm explained. "I'm really proud of these girls."

The Tigers went on a 15-2 run, recording nine shutouts. In fact, Oakville's 4-2 win over Summit showcased its best offensive effort this season against Summit starting pitcher Kristin Nottlemann. The Falcon's pitching ace had recorded a no-hitter against the Tigers near the start of the season and had given up just two earned runs in the team's two previous meetings.

Oakville senior Nicole Jost is just one of several players who peppered Nottlemann for nine hits. Jost went 3 of 4 at the plate, and all of those hits were doubles. She also scored once, drove in one run and stole one base in the win. The Tigers' starting catcher boasts a .295 batting average with nine doubles and 14 runs batted in.

"All three of her hits were with two outs," Sturm said. "She by far had her best all-around game this season."

Oakville's Ally Stanton also was solid at the plate as she went 2 of 3 with two doubles and two runs scored. The senior shortstop also drove in one run and walked once. Stanton has a .400 batting average and leads Oakville in doubles (17) and runs batted in (26) this season.

"The two doubles she had were absolute missiles," Sturm said. "One thing that's been overlooked in her career is her de-fense. She's just stellar all the way around and is one of those seniors that's lead the charge this season."

Senior third baseman Lindsay DeGonia drove in two runs for the Tigers as she went 1-3 with a sacrifice. DeGonia is batting .299 with 18 runs batted in.

"Defensively she's been phenomenal at third base," Sturm said. "She plays third base with no fear for the ball and also has a knack for getting the big hits for us."

Oakville starting pitcher Alyssa Kernen went the distance, giving up two runs on five hits in seven innings. The senior also retired four batters via strikeout in her 17th win of the season. Kernen is 17-5 with a 0.70 earned run average.

"She could have gotten rattled after those first two runs in the first inning," Sturm said. "But she came off the field and said: 'That's it, I can't give up any more runs.'''

The Tigers enter the state semifinal game against Suburban West Conference foe Lafayette at 4 p.m. Friday. Noting the 3-1 decision to Lafayette earlier in the year, Sturm knows his Tigers are going to be the underdogs.

"We're going to have to find a way to solve (Lafayette starting pitcher Erin) De-Stefano," Sturm said. "We've got to find ways to get people on base and then drive them in."

Sturm also believes that the Tigers will have to put together their best defensive ef-fort of the season to advance to the state championship game.

"We're going to have to play good solid defense in order to win," Sturm said. "We're definitely going to be the underdog."

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