With Greenfield ace Bella Matthias and Whitnall stalwarts Alex Cimler and Sarah Bauer in the pitching circle, runs were going to be at a premium when the teams clashed on the softball diamond on May 12.
The Hustlin' Hawks were fortunate enough to have Kaylan Biersack around to provide some offense.
Biersack belted two home runs, a three-run shot in the fifth inning and a solo blast in the seventh to help Greenfield to a crucial 4-2 victory over Whitnall.
The Hawks, who had dropped a 1-0 decision to the Falcons back in early April, improved to 12-1 in the Woodland Conference East Division, tying Whitnall for first place with three games remaining.
'I'm really proud of this team,' Greenfield coach Jack Miller said. 'We lost to Whitnall, and we've been fighting uphill ever since. We've been out of first place the entire year. I said we've just got to keep on holding serve, so to speak, and we were able to do that.'
Biersack had big day
The victory came courtesy of the big game from Biersack, a senior outfielder.
'What a game to pick for her career day,' Miller said. 'She's been a four-year starter and tremendous leader. We always have faith in her; she's just a solid, solid player. She had three great at-bats. She had another one I thought was going out (on a drive to deep left-centerfield in the third inning), but the next two, she really tagged. She just missed three home runs.'
Biersack, who had not hit a home run this season, said, 'I wanted this game so badly. I knew there was a lot riding on it, so I knew I had to perform. The first (home run), I didn't know was out. I was sprinting around second, but then I finally realized it was out. The second one, I knew was out.'
Whitnall coach Tom Hickman said, 'There were just two pitches that got up a little bit and didn't get high enough out of the zone. They put a pretty good swing on the ball, and when the wind is blowing out to left, you can't afford to do that.'
The Hawks also received another strong outing from Matthias, who overcame some control problems to spread out six hits, strike out 18 and walk two. She struck out the side in five innings, with the other outs coming on a double play off a bunt attempt and a line drive to left field.
'Bella really gutted it out,' Miller said. 'She had some adversity with the strike zone, and she battled her way through it.'
Matthias, who improved to 15-2 on the season with an earned-run average of 0.76, was opposed at the start by Cimler for the Falcons, and the two pitched four scoreless innings each.
Greenfield had some chances, putting two runners on in the second and third innings, but Cimler pitched out of trouble and finished with eight strikeouts in her four-inning stint.
GHS takes lead
The Hawks jumped ahead in the top of the fifth inning. Hannah Ruffert singled to left field, and Matthias bunted and reached base herself by beating the throw to first.
The Falcons brought Bauer in to pitch, and she struck out the next two hitters. Biersack then lined her first home run just over the left-field fence to put the Hawks on the board at 3-0. Olivia Kelly followed with a double, but Bauer got the third out on a fly ball.
Whitnall came right back with a run in its half of the inning. Val Nowak reached on an infield single; took second and third on wild pitches; and scored on another infield hit by Kayla Jaskulski to trim the deficit to 3-1.
Greenfield had runners on second and third with two out in the sixth, but Bauer escaped with a strikeout.
Mackenzie Sutton led off the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run to left field to bring her team within 3-2.
Biersack then struck again, leading off the seventh with her solo shot to make it 4-2. Matthias then ended the game with a line-drive out and a pair of strikeouts.
'We battled back with two runs,' Hickman said. 'We battled against Bella better than we have in the past. We laid off the high stuff, but we didn't attack enough in the zone down low. That's what ultimately did us in. We showed some growth against Bella, but I'm not going to be sorry to see her leave; let's put it that way.'
Biersack went 2-for-4 with the two home runs and four runs batted in, and Ruffert and Alyssa Vilkoski each had two hits. For Whitnall, Jaskulski went 2-for-2 with the RBI and Sutton 2-for-3 with the home run.
'They (the Falcons) have the No. 2-ranked team in Division 2, and we're ninth in Division 1,' Miller said, 'so it was a classic battle.'
Greenfield and Whitnall each played another game last week, both victories.
GREENFIELD: The Hawks tipped Greendale, 2-0, on May 9, with Matthias tossing a one-hitter and striking out 10. Olivia Kelly and Maria Montemayor each had two hits.
WHITNALL: The Falcons blanked New Berlin Eisenhower, 10-0, on May 9. Mackenzie Sutton lined two home runs and drove in three runs, Alex Cimler went 4-for-4 with a home run and five RBIs, and Kathryn Bay belted a home run and brought in two runs. Sarah Bauer allowed one hit and struck out eight to notch her 10th victory of the season.