Softball: Heat is on as area teams gear up for sectional play
By Gene Chamberlain For Sun-Times Media May 30, 2012 5:54PM
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:56PM
Sectional level softball is a pressure cooker.
It’s about tight, low-scoring pitching battles with a premium on small ball and defense.
The remaining area teams still vying for state berths — Bartlett and Jacobs in Class 4A and Burlington Central in Class 3A — enter that pressure cooker Thursday and the team that keeps its cool might be playing for a chance to go downstate next week.
“It’s all about execution at this next level,” Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said. “Most of the teams will be 20-win teams, good teams without a lot of weaknesses.”
At the Class 4A Lake Park Sectional, Bartlett (28-8) must solve West Chicago (24-12) and pitcher Katie Wiest (4:30 p.m.) if they hope to get a shot in the title game Saturday against Glenbard North and ace Lilly Fechow, who beat them 1-0 early in the season.
“Wiest is like our (Bartlett pitcher) Tori Burke in that she relies a lot on ball movement and location, changing speeds, getting ahead in the count,” Wolfsmith said. “She’s not overpowering, but she gets strikeouts.”
The teams didn’t face each other this season. The Hawks rebounded from losing five of their last six, to winning two regional games with just one run allowed.
Bartlett is trying to win a sectional for the first time since making state in 2009, when Burke and current teammates Amanda Montbriand, Alicia Salata and Steph Tomazin all had minor roles with the varsity as freshmen.
At Cary-Grove, Jacobs (23-14) is in a sectional for the third straight year and has won six straight. But in the 4:30 p.m. game the Golden Eagles face Rockton Hononegah (30-6), the last team to beat them. Katie Kirker (4-1), coming off two years away due to knee surgeries, threw a one-hitter in the regional finals and the Golden Eagles can also turn to junior pitcher McKayla Lein.
Burlington Central (28-8) has lost only once since back-to-back losses to Marengo April 10 and 12, and now the Rockets will find out if the torturous schedule they’ve embarked upon this season helped push them past the defending state Class 3A champs in a rematch at 4:30 p.m. at the Belvidere North Sectional.
“We’ve obviously beaten some good teams since we played Marengo, and that gives us confidence going in,” Central coach Cray Allen said. “I’m hoping the old saying ‘its hard to beat a team three times,’ plays out in our favor.”
Senior pitcher Lindsay Melson of Marengo (32-5) shut down the Rockets in their first matchup, 2-1. Marengo also won 11-7 in the rematch.
The Rockets can counter with either right-handed freshman Angie Morrow or left-handed sophomore Brooke Gaylord.
“Both pitched about the same amount of games so we don’t think about it like we have a classified ‘ace,’ to the staff,” Allen said. “With a lefty and righty we’ve got different spin and movement from each one, and it’s a great combination.
“Brooke has shown a lot of confidence since she beat Glenbard South.”
Marengo hasn’t given up a run in four games and hasn’t lost since a May 5 defeat by Class 4A sectional team Elk Grove.
Although pitching will be critical, hitting actually got the Rockets to the sectional — the 19-18 regional title win over DeKalb was a remarkable display of offense.
“If it’s going to be a bar fight then we’ll go in swinging the bats,” Allen said. “If it’s going to be finesse between pitcher and the defense, we’re comfortable with that.”
Central’s last sectional crown came in 2009.