BELVIDERE, Ill. - The Hononegah softball team has made a living this season trotting around the bases.
Tuesday afternoon at Belvidere North High School, the Indians were forced to significantly increase their RPM's.
With a gale force wind blowing straight in from left field, the Indians reverted to small ball, with one notable exception, in a 4-1 victory over DeKalb in an IHSA Class 4A regional semifinal game.
Hononegah, which set a school record for home runs this season, was able to get one blast out of the yard: A shot to right-center by Maddie Shaw.
Besides that, the Indians relied on moving runners and execution on offense and the reliable right arm of Ashton Melaas in the circle.
It was a winning combination for coach Dan Bohn, who saw his team complete a perfect 18-0 season in the NIC-10 last week.
"We've really been working hard on focusing on hitting line drives," Bohn said. "I think at times this season we've gotten caught reading the papers and thinking home run all the time. But when you focus on hitting line drives, that's when the balls will go out anyway. I thought we ran the bases really well and I thought we were in control of the game the entire way."
Melaas was a big reason for the Indians being in control. After fighting off a mid-season injury, the senior is back into top form. The only run she allowed was an unearned tally in the sixth inning that brought DeKalb within 3-1.
"I think the injury might have been a blessing in disguise, because it really limited her innings this season," Bohn said. "The reduced wear and tear might really pay off for us in the long run. She threw seven innings against North in the last game of the regular season and she threw seven tonight, so she's got it cranked up. We had Emma Schroeder warming up in case we needed her, and I think eventually that change of pace will really help us out if teams start hitting Ashton."
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI single from Ava Martin. Hononegah went up 2-0 in the fourth when Carrie Anderson broke from third on a wild pitch and scored just ahead of the tag.
Anderson struck again in the fifth, as the Indians manufactured another tally, with Anderson's grounder scoring a run to make it 3-0.
Anderson said she was pleased with her team's approach.
"We've really been focusing on making sure our fundamentals are in the right place, especially on days like today," Anderson said. "Defense was so important today, especially for the pitcher. She's working through wind and other elements, so we needed to be as supportive as we can."
After DeKalb got a two-out hit to make it 3-1 in the sixth, Shaw struck for her solo shot.
"Maddie played some JV and some varsity this year," Bohn said. "Last night she was really driving the ball in practice, and she did again today. With the injury to Emilie Hooker, we're looking for kids who can hit it hard and drive the ball."
• UP NEXT: The Indians will play the winner of Hampshire and Belvidere North Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Belvidere North.
Melaas shut down DeKalb in order in the seventh to preserve the win.
"The breeze was nice because it helped pick up my velocity, but it also knocked me off balance a couple of times and led to the ball not going where I wanted it," Melaas said. "But I worked through it as best as I could."