Baranek: Final run caps memorable 2014 softball season in Southland
By Tony Baranek email@example.com June 16, 2014 8:56PM
Updated: July 18, 2014 6:20AM
Sandburg vs. Lincoln-Way East in a Class 4A state softball semifinal.
Who saw THAT coming?
Have to admit, not yours truly. At least not on March 24. In our preseason Top 10 we had Sandburg fourth. Lincoln-Way East was, umm ... cough, cough ... No. 10.
At least I had them in there. I passed on Beecher, although I certainly came to appreciate the talent of Sarah Crews, Emily Landis and freshman Taylor Johnson well before the Bobcats’ 2A playoff run to state.
Anyway, Griffins coach Elizabeth Pawlicki made me feel a little less dumb during one of our interviews at state.
“To be honest, where did we come from?” she said. “You look back and nobody expected anything from Lincoln-Way East, but little by little we chipped away and here we are, in the Final Four.”
The Griffins, 22-10 going in, survived a 4-3 battle with Lincoln-Way Central in their playoff opener but scored 36 runs over their next three games as Jenny Van Geertry and Blake Ruiz fronted a relentless offense.
Pitcher Nikole Van Gennep, meanwhile, was brilliant. I’ve seen a lot of girls show their mettle in the circle, but what she did in the final two innings of the supersectional to strand four Edwardsville baserunners simply was electrifying.
The Griffins didn’t have the best state finals weekend, but they deserved to be there. And with six starters expected back, they’ll be back as contenders.
As for the others I saw in my 2014 preseason crystal ball ...
9. Mother McAuley (23-5): Call me bad luck. I was there when the Macs got smoked 10-0 by Providence, lost to Marist in extras and when their bats were paralyzed by Sandburg’s Sarah Herold. Thumbs up to freshman Holly Marousek on pitching them to the GCAC Red title.
8. Lockport (27-9-1): The Porters peaked at the right time, beating Sandburg to claim second in conference and riding the bat of Gabby Voulgaris to a regional title. They couldn’t stop Lincoln-Way East, though.
7. Richards (22-9): Another conference title, another nice playoff run, another brick wall in the sectional. This team, led by Emily Wetzel, provided many positives, as all Bulldogs teams coached by Julie Folliard do.
6. Andrew (24-9): When Kara Meter led the T-bolts to an amazing comeback from 8-1 down against Lincoln-Way Central, I thought there might be something special here. I’m still thinking that 15-0 regional loss to Plainfield South was a misprint.
5. Tinley Park (22-6): The Titans rode Annalisse Scott’s golden arm to the school’s first conference title. Errors proved fatal in a 3A sectional semi loss to Morris.
4. Sandburg: (24-16): The Eagles went from fifth in conference to second in the state. Sandburg always seems to have the type of players like Sarah Herold, who can smile when they’re counted out and say, “Oh, yeah? Game on.”
3. Providence (21-14): The Celtics had more highs and lows than any team in the Southland. Beating Lincoln-Way West was the final high before regional disappointment. Pitcher Kendal Judge is the real deal, though.
2. Lincoln-Way West (31-4): The Warriors were the Southland’s most consistent winner all season. With Morghan Dieringer firing bullets, I thought they were unstoppable. But losses to Marist and Providence proved to be a harbinger for a tough 3A regional loss for the second year in a row.
1. Marist (29-9-1): National competition early brought mixed results, but it paid off later. Brooke Wyderski and Madison Naujokas kept the runs coming, while Zariya Gonzalez exceeded expectations in the circle. No shame in losing to Sandburg in the 4A sectional final.