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In a couple of years Maine West and Evanston could ascend to the top of their respective softball divisions in the Central Suburban League.

Right now, they’re just the youngest teams in the league after an influx of talented freshmen has arrived at the same time for both programs.

The Warriors had the upper hand in the first head-to-head matchup between the two rebuilding programs Tuesday in Des Plaines, rallying late with unearned runs in the sixth and seventh innings to keep the Wildkits winless on the year with a 4-3 triumph in the crossover contest.

Evanston (0-3) will seek its first win again Thursday against Vernon Hills in the home opener. The Wildkits struck out a total of 14 times against Maine West freshman right-hander Kaitlyn Marsh on Tuesday, and head coach Amy Gonzales acknowledged after the loss that the Kits need to make more contact to build a little more confidence at the plate.

“We were better defensively today, and we were a little bit better offensively,” Gonzales said. “I think we’ll all be a little more relaxed out there once we get better at just putting more balls in play.

“I saw a little bit of progress today. We’ll just try to keep on building when we get back out there on Thursday.”

The Warriors, who have five freshmen on their varsity roster compared with three for ETHS, trailed 3-2 after five innings. But Evanston freshman hurler Maya Nelson, who relieved starter Lexie Lennon at that point, couldn’t close the door on the hosts after errors kept both innings alive.

A wild pickoff throw by catcher Katy Patton with two outs in the sixth moved Kayla Byerly all the way from first base to third, and she scored easily when Faiza Rogaria whacked a double to left. And in the seventh, an off-target throw from shortstop Delilah Liston to start the inning set the stage for the game-winning blow, a two-out single to left by designated player Madison Swanson.

Nelson came on after Lennon retired 11 Maine West hitters in a row at one point, then had to wriggle out of a jam after West solved her for four straight hits – but only one run – in the fifth.

Gonzales wasn’t about to second-guess her decision to change hurlers at that point.

“I thought I would utilize both of them today, I just didn’t know when,” said the ETHS coach. “We figured we’d switch things up when we did make the change because we wanted to give Maya another opportunity.

“Lexie hit more of her spots today [compared with the season opener against Loyola] and that definitely helped her. She was getting ahead of the hitters, and that’s what we want out of all of our pitchers so they can be in the driver’s seat out there.”

Evanston was limited to four hits on the day, yet capitalized on some smart and alert base running to keep the Warriors down for most of the game.

Frances Heldt reached on a throwing error with one out in the Evanston fourth, stole third when Marsh bounced a changeup with Lennon at the plate, and scored on Lennon’s subsequent groundout.

The Wildkits plated two more runs in the fifth. Eva Eiseman ignited the rally with a leadoff single and stolen base and scored when Liston singled up the middle. Liston reached third on a passed ball, then was caught in a rundown trying to score on a ball hit to the right side of the infield by Kelsey Blickenstaff.

The rundown lasted so long, however, that Blickenstaff hustled all the way to third before the out was recorded. She scored on a wild pitch for what looked like the game-winner when Lennon stopped the Warriors from tying the game with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom half of the frame.

Lennon escaped further damage when Leiah Cardona bounced into a force out at the plate, and Alonda Contreras rolled out to second baseman Eiseman to end the threat.

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