Softball: Marist claims Class 4A state championship
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org June 9, 2012 7:26PM
Marist teammates welcome Haley Richy at home plate after she hit a grand slam in Saturday's Class 4A championship game against Bartlett. | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 9, 2012 2:51AM
EAST PEORIA — First, finesse. Then a slam.
And, oh, does Marist feel grand.
The RedHawks broke open a tight Class 4A state title game against Bartlett on Saturday at EastSide Centre with a fifth-inning explosion and went on to prevail 5-0.
Marist (27-15) became the first girls team at the Southwest Side school to win an IHSA state championship.
“I’m still in shock,” senior Haley Richy said. “I don’t know … it doesn’t feel real. I’m just in shock.”
Marist had gone in front 1-0 on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Brooke Wilson that plated Maggie Gorman. But it was Richy who put the game out of sight with a grand slam on a 3-and-2 pitch by Bartlett’s Tori Burke.
“I was just trying to improve myself from my last at-bat (a strikeout),” Richy said. “I just had to bounce back from that.
“I just hit it and ran. I didn’t even know where it went. When I saw the coaches get all happy and stuff, I got really excited.”
Senior Kristin Klutcharch, for the second day in a row, was brilliant in the circle for the RedHawks, striking out five and firing a four-hit shutout.
Both teams had ample opportunities to score early. Marist came the closest in the top of the first when senior Nicole Babrowski bunted for a single and circled the bases on a double to the fence by Richy before being thrown out on a perfect throw to the plate by Bartlett shortstop Kayla Haberstich.
Bartlett leaned the hardest on Klutcharch in the top of the third, loading the bases with one out.
Shortstop Brooke Wyderski made a big play by snaring a groundball by Kaylyn Zierke and forcing a runner at the plate. Third baseman Katie Caulfield then made a clutch grab on a line drive by Alex Morales that appeared destined to sail down the left-field line.
“I knew we had to get the out. I couldn’t let them score,” Caulfield said. “It worked out for the best.”
The offensive explosion in the bottom of the fifth began with a leadoff double by Gorman. After senior Ashlynn Kokaska sacrificed, Caulfield was hit by a pitch and Wilson laid down a perfect bunt for an RBI single.
“I usually do it as a sacrifice bunt, but this time I knew I had to execute it as a suicide bunt,” Wilson said. “I made sure I got it down, just so that Maggie could score. I knew it would open up a big inning.”
Babrowski also reached on a bunt to load the bases before Richy unloaded them with the grand slam.
Klutcharch retired Bartlett in order in the sixth and seventh to lock up her second shutout in as many days.
“Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe it,” Klutcharch said. “I just tried to pitch my game like the other day. I was getting really nervous (in the third inning), but I knew my defense would make the great plays that they always do.”
The win brought to completion a seven-game postseason run that seemed unlikely when Marist stood at 15-15.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” said Gorman, who had a walkoff hit earlier in the playoffs and smashed a two-run home run against Elk Grove in Friday’s semifinal before starting the winning rally on Saturday.
“Everyone doubted us, but I think at the end of the season we just picked up energy. We were excited to play again. All the hard work we put in for four years, the seniors, it paid off. And we made history. That’s awesome.”