Baranek: Podbielniak a prestigious prognosticator
I said it last year, and I guess I’ll have to say it again today.
I should have listened to Wendy.
The Wendy I’m talking about is Tinley Park coach Wendy Podbielniak, the one we had a big story about in Sunday’s paper for being our 2013 SouthtownStar Softball Coach of the Year.
Last season she and I had a conversation about which team I should pick to roll in the Class 4A sectionals and go to state.
She told me to take Marist. No, she insisted that I take Marist. I took Sandburg. Sandburg went on to lose to Marist in the sectional semis. Marist went on to claim the Class 4A state title.
So this year, before doing a preseason top 10, I sent out surveys to all of the coaches in our area. Wendy returned hers with many an optimistic statement, among them that she had a handful of very talented returnees and a freshman class that physically was the strongest she’d ever coached.
She ended it with this:
“One thing’s for sure ... I don’t think anyone in the region will count the Titans out anymore!!!!! You can bet we’ll be in the mix!”
So, of course, I left them out of the preseason top 10.
Well, after a solid regular season and a brilliant playoff run they’re No. 1 today, and will be at least until it’s time for the 2014 preview.
And I know who I’ll call.
Anyway, let’s have some fun and see where this year’s preseason top 10 teams wound up on the final day.
1. Providence (24-9) got the No. 1 nod over Marist basically because they had, among other talented returnees, a proven pitcher (Amanda Wilson) returning from the 2012 team that finished third in the state in Class 3A and Marist did not. Wilson had a stellar year pitching and hit .442, but Providence was derailed early in the playoffs by Lincoln-Way North and wound up seventh in the rankings.
2. Marist (27-10): The RedHawks were plenty deep in the lineup, with eventual Player of the Year Brooke Wyderski leading the way on offense. They had a much better regular season than in 2012, but couldn’t convert on a huge late opportunity against Sandburg in the Class 4A Richards Sectional final. They finished third in the rankings.
3. Andrew (26-7): When the T-bolts were good, they were very good. When they were bad, it wasn’t pretty, especially defensively. Up and down in the rankings most of the year, they dropped from No. 5 to gone when their season came to an end in a shocking opening-round loss to an H-F team that had only a handful of wins coming in.
4. Sandburg (24-15): The Eagles started out slowly but were the hottest team in the state (winning 14 of 16) going into the Rosemont Supersectional against York. Their dramatic win over Marist in the sectional final, however, did not carry over into what was an ugly loss. Still, they deserve the No. 2 ranking for their stretch run.
5. Marian Catholic (16-17): A couple of things happened here. The power hitting that the Spartans had last year just didn’t materialize in 2013, although Alex Nickel emerged as a real star. They also had one of the youngest starting lineups in the area, which led to major inconsistency.
6. Mother McAuley (17-6): The Mighty Macs, in recent years, have had the crummiest postseason experiences. Being the No. 2 seed in the Richards Sectional and bowing out in a 2-1 regional final loss to Hinsdale South continued the trend. Big games didn’t bring out their best this year, but they still won enough to check out at No. 8.
7. Lockport (24-13): The Achilles heel for the Porters this season was hanging on to leads. It cost them a big conference game against Lincoln-Way East and it cost them their season when, up 13-4 against Minooka, the wheels fell off. They were, like so many teams in the Southland this season, up and down. They wound up fourth in the final poll.
8. Richards (20-10): The Bulldogs had a very productive season behind Sara Tobin and pitcher Stephanie Waller, going 17-2 in South Suburban Conference play. But they did have their problems against ranked opponents and lost a toughie in a Class 4A regional final to Morton 2-1. They didn’t make the final cut.
9. Lincoln-Way East (19-8): The Griffins had a really solid regular season and had they lived up to their No. 1 sectional seed would have finished higher in the rankings. But eventual Class 4A champion Minooka beat them in a regional final and they settled in here at No 10.
10. Oak Forest (21-15): The Bengals disappeared from the rankings after an early May loss to Tinley Park. There were just so many times that when the pitching was there the hitting wasn’t, and vice versa. Look out for Taylor Sterkowitz, though, in 2014.
So which other teams besides Tinley Park rose above my expectations? Lincoln-Way North rode the bat of Jill Galich to a 20-10 record and ended the season ranked fifth. Lincoln-Way West (30-6) won the SouthWest Suburban championship behind possibly the best arm in the area in Morghan Dieringer, but was stunned in the sectional by Tinley Park and Sarah Gillespie in a 1-0 loss. The Warriors finished sixth in the rankings. Lemont had a good run behind Rylie Jay’s bat and Carly Jaworski’s arm to win the South Suburban Blue and finish 25-7 and in the No. 9 spot.