DIXON – Despite trailing by five runs after the top of the third inning, the Dixon Duchesses were actually feeling pretty good about themselves Wednesday afternoon against DeKalb.
After two early runs in both the first and second, the Duchesses' defense had helped starter Beccah Jones wiggle out of a couple of jams, including stranding three runners after the Barbs loaded the bases with one out in the third inning.
In fact, out of three chances to do some major damage to Dixon's chances, DeKalb didn't really capitalize like it could have on any of them.
But despite Jones getting stronger as the game wore on, and the Duchesses putting together a bases-loaded rally of their own in the bottom of the third, the Barbs left cold and breezy Reynolds Field with a 10-2 victory in a NIB-12 crossover contest.
"It looked like we were going to peck away and maybe get to 10 runs to end the game early," DeKalb coach Jeff Davis said. "But credit Dixon, because their pitcher threw strikes, their defense played well, and they never let us pull away."
After DeKalb (11-5) arrived late, it was Dixon (5-10) that came out cold. After the first two batters reached in the top of the first, Morgan Newport ripped a triple to deep left field for a 2-0 DeKalb lead.
But Jones kept Newport at third thanks to a lineout, groundout and popout, then did the same thing over the next two innings.
After a passed ball and a sacrifice fly by Erin Karazewski, Jones ended the second by getting a flyout to left. She then left the bases full of Barbs in the third with a soft liner to center and a popout to first, after allowing an RBI single to Jessica Townsend with one out.
"It was tough after warming up to stop and wait a while before the game started," Jones said, "but I relied on my defense to help limit what they got, and it actually kept our momentum up. Keeping them from having a really big inning kept us in the game, and I think it helped us play with more confidence and play to our highest potential."
The Duchesses' bats responded in the bottom of the third. Allison Newman and Kari Wolfe drew one-out walks at the bottom of the order, then leadoff hitter Bre Grobe singled to center to load the bases.
After a strikeout, Erin Smith and Jones ripped back-to-back RBI singles to left to cut the deficit to 5-2.
"The first couple of innings, we were down because we kept striking out," Smith said, "but then Beccah hit the ball hard to left [on a fly out in the second] and we realized we could make contact. The bottom of the order started a rally, and I think their pitcher got a little frustrated after the walks, and we took advantage of it."
But DeKalb starter Katie Kowalski (5-2) got a strikeout to end that threat, then allowed only a second single to Smith the rest of the way. She finished with 13 strikeouts in a four-hitter.
"We were able to minimize the damage, just like they had been doing to us," Davis said, "and that turned things around for us."
The Barbs scored one run over the next three innings, but put the game away with a four-run, five-hit seventh.
After walking four hitters through the first four innings, Jones (1-3) struck out five over the final three frames. Seven of the 10 runs she allowed were earned, and DeKalb finished with 15 hits.
But even with the loss, Dixon coach Chris Jones was encouraged by the effort he saw from his squad.
"Everybody was out there working together as a team, really supporting their pitcher," he said. "We didn't blame any one person, but shouldered the load as a team, and that's great to see.
"We just have to keep working, keep improving, and keep getting more aggressive and trying to make things happen instead of just letting them. We stayed right with them for six innings today, and it's another step in the right direction."
DeKalb 10, Dixon 2
Star of the game: Katie Kowalski, DeKalb, complete game, 2 ER, 4H, 13 SO, 2 BB
Key performers: Jessica Townsend, DeKalb, 3-for-4, 3B, 3 RBIs; Morgan Newport, DeKalb, 2-for-4, 3B, 2 RBIs; Erin Smith, Dixon, 2-for-3, RBI; Beccah Jones, Dixon, complete game, RBI 1B
Up next: Dixon at Streator, 4:30 p.m. today