Softball: Late-arriving Claussen saves day for Vernon Hills
Vernon Hills' Jenn Claussen (center) smiles after hitting her game-deciding home run on Monday at Antioch. She's being greeted by teammates Madie Nixon (left) and Megan Meline. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 16, 2012 1:27AM
Jenn Claussen can play softball for another 25 years, and she’ll never have another day like this one.
The Vernon Hills junior third baseman missed the start of Monday’s crucial North Suburban Conference Prairie Division game at Antioch because she was taking an AP physics exam.
She arrived in time to take the field in the bottom of the third inning. But in the top of the fourth, when her turn to bat (sixth in the order) came up, No. 7 hitter Tori Smith batted instead, and whiffed for the second out of the inning. By rule, the strikeout was scored to Claussen, even though she hadn’t come up to the plate, and Smith then batted again — this time in the correct spot — and grounded out to end the inning.
Four innings later, Claussen’s weird day had a happy ending. With two runners on and two outs in a 3-3 game, in the top of the eighth, she blasted a towering home run off losing pitcher Kaitlin Phillips to give her team a 6-3 lead — the eventual final score.
Jordyn Comitor and Anya Mollenhauer both singled up the middle, and Claussen then launched her bomb.
“The way I struck out (on a called third strike in the sixth) was pretty embarrassing,” Claussen said. “So I really wanted to make up for that. The other thing was that we always seem to go to extra innings. It gets tiring. At some point, it’s like, ‘Let’s just be done with this.’ I was thinking I just needed a base hit.”
The victory clinched a share of the division title for the Cougars, and vaulted them into today’s Thursday’s NSC championship game against Warren, at home.
Pitcher Megan Meline, who worked all eight innings, earned the win for Vernon Hills.
“Megan did really well, especially when she started changing speeds,” said Cougars coach Steve Korney. “She’s a senior. We expect her to be a leader on the field and off, and she stepped up big-time, especially after giving up three runs in the fourth.”
Antioch used five hits to score its three runs. The Sequoits (20-13, 7-4) had their last 10 hitters go down in order against Meline.
Recap: On Tuesday, the Cougars (22-11 overall) put the finishing touches on the NSC Prairie title.
They downed host Lakes 4-1 to win the league outright with an 11-1 record.
Meline went the distance in a game interrupted by lightning. She scattered seven hits to go along with four Ks and one walk.
Comitor had two hits and drove in a run. Meline and Claussen also drove in runs.
Behind a complete-game, two-hit shutout by Meline, the Cougars edged Wauconda 2-0 at home on May 9.
Meline struck out 11 and allowed only one walk.
Vernon Hills scored its two runs in the top of the first inning. Caitlin Sernett (2-for-4, run, 2 steals) and Claussen (1-for-3, RBI) supplied the offense.