Edwardsville junior Jennifer Kocevar had pitched only 2/3 of an inning this season before Friday and was making her first varsity start against a Waterloo team that had won all 32 of its games.
Kocevar was up to the challenge, ending the Bulldogs’ 32-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory that helped the Tigers rebound from a 6-4 defeat to Columbia the night before.
“Actually I didn’t know that they were undefeated until right now, but they’re a really good team,” Kocevar said after picking up her first varsity win. “I’m really proud of our offense and defense. We made some tough plays, we were really aggressive and I couldn’t be prouder.”
One of the largest crowds in Waterloo softball history packed the field hoping to see another victory, but the Tigers (24-4) did not allow that to happen.
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“It’s amazing,” Waterloo senior pitcher Kasey Bradley said of the huge crowd that overflowed the bleachers and areas around each dugout, spreading into the outfield. “It’s the most people that’s ever been here ... it was like the whole town was here. It was great with the support and everything.”
Bradley (22-1) said the streak being ended could actually help the Bulldogs re-focus for the playoffs, which begin next week.
“I feel like we wanted to win, we wanted to go undefeated,” she said. “But it kind of took some stress off knowing we don’t have to keep up the undefeated record. We can relax and have fun in the postseason and hopefully go far.”
Edwardsville coach Lori Blade felt it was important for her squad to bounce back from a difficult defeat the night before.
“We have to take care of ourselves,” Blade said. “They’re a good team, I’ve stacked us three games in a row here with good teams. We didn’t perform at our ability level last night and the kids were very disappointed in that. It just happened to be tonight that it was Waterloo and they’re undefeated.
“Not a word was spoken of that. It was about us bouncing back and taking a little bit of pride in our effort and our mentality — and they did that.”
Edwardsville was playing without its pitching ace and one of its top hitters in senior St. Louis University recruit Kallen Loveless. Blade said Loveless, taken out after pitching one inning Thursday against Columbia, will not pitch Saturday against Marquette, either.
“She’s done for a little while,” said Blade, who would not comment further on Loveless’ absence.
Back-to-back singles by Katelyn Bobrowski, Ari Arnold and Jordan Corby put Edwardsville on top 1-0 in the third. Waterloo right fielder Emma Snodgrass made a diving attempt on Corby’s sinking liner but the ball squirted out of her glove.
Doubles by Torrie Kruse and Megan Radae led to another run in the fourth and Green showed off her speed by scoring on a well-timed dash from third after Amayha Dycus grounded out to the pitcher.
Kocevar limited Waterloo to five hits and two runs, aided by several strong defensive pays by Arnold at short and Corby at second. It was only the third time all season the Bulldogs had scored fewer than three runs.
“It’s one of those again where we were just hoping to get three or four innings out of her and she was doing a really good job, job so we just stayed with it,” Blade said.
Waterloo threatened in the fifth, then pushed across a run in the sixth on an RBI groundout by Kaitlyn Storm. With two outs and the bases loaded, Kocevar got Hannah King to fly out to the first baseman.
After Green doubled, MacKenzie Marshall’s RBI single gave Edwardsville a 4-1 lead in the sixth.
Waterloo made another push in the seventh and got a run on an error, a single by Kylie Albrecht and an RBI groundout by Taylor Augustine. Emelia Modglin lined out to second to close out the game.
“We really don’t have anything to hang our heads about except for the fact it’s our first loss of the season,” Waterloo coach Matt Mason said. “I told the girls we could have played a little bit better, but overall I just thought we hit the ball right at them today. We haven’t done that all year, we’ve been able to find a hole almost every game and scratch out more than two runs against just about everybody.
“Even the ones where we did score two runs, we were able to hold the other team to one or zero.”