State Softball Notebook: Van Gennep’s valiant effort goes for naught
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org June 13, 2014 9:04PM
The Sandburg girls softball team joins in a group hug after defeating Lincoln-Way East. At left is winning pitcher Sarah Herold. | Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 14, 2014 3:08PM
EAST PEORIA — Lincoln-Way East pitcher Nikole Van Gennep knows how to get out of tough situations.
She did a veritable magic act on Monday, working out of two seemingly impossible jams in East’s dramatic 4-3 Class 4A supersectional victory over Edwardsville.
Friday in the state semifinals against Sandburg, she once again was a magician, striking out three straight batters with the bases loaded in the first inning.
The Eagles already had struck for two runs, but Van Gennep’s gritty determination kept East in a game that could have gotten out of hand.
That was of little consolation for Van Gennep after a 5-1 loss.
“I just think that we needed to stay up, but (Sandburg) just came out ready to play,” a tearful Van Gennep said. “I tried to stay calm out there and do what I’ve done all season.”
Van Gennep finished with seven strikeouts, and although she allowed five runs she also stranded eight Eagles.
“I felt good just knowing that I had a great team behind me to make good plays,” Van Gennep said. “I’m just so proud of every single one of us. (The third-place) game is going to be great, no matter what.”
“And it’s going to be fun,” interjected Griffins coach Elizabeth Pawlicki. “Nikole is a tough kid and like she said we’re proud of the team.
“You look back where we came from and nobody expected anything from Lincoln-Way East (this season). But little by little we chipped away and here we are, in the Final Four, hoping to get third out of the hundreds of teams that are in the state of Illinois.”
Sandburg’s Sarah Herold has been on top of her pitching game throughout the playoffs, but before Friday’s semifinal she had just two hits in her last 12 at-bats.
Friday was a good day to break out. Herold was 3-for-4, two of the hits leading to runs.
“Oh, man, my hitting has been awful,” Herold said, smiling. “I know (my teammates) rely on me to get the hit. During the season I was one of the big hitters, but then we came in the playoffs and I got focused on pitching.
“When I am so focused on pitching I almost forget about hitting. To me, pitching is more important than me getting a base hit. You need to have that pitcher in the game, taking care of their hitters.”
Join the crowd
Friday marked Sandburg’s 12th appearance at a state finals weekend since 1992. Tradition wasn’t a focal point of motivation during the state playoffs, according to senior Katie Krzus, but she wasn’t oblivious to past glory.
Krzus was in eighth grade when Sandburg won the Class 4A title in 2010.
“I watched them win the championship online,” she said. “I wanted to see how it felt.”
Better late than...
Sandburg was quick on the scoring trigger Friday, but the Eagles were late — or at least not early — for a pre-tournament pizza party on Thursday at East Peoria High School.
“We read through the (IHSA) instructions, which said to arrive at 6 and that we would eat at 6:30,” Sandburg coach Jim Fabianski said. “But when we showed up at six everybody was eating.
“So we walk in late and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, this looks bad, like we think we know what we’re doing. Like we think we’re all that.’ But I found the head of it and she said, ‘Oh, everybody just got here early so we just started.
“We had pizza, salad and fruit cups. It was nice. The kids all ate dinner and they didn’t start the coin toss without us.”