Softball: Full steam ahead for state-bound Bartlett
By Gene Chamberlain For Sun-Times Media June 7, 2012 6:25PM
Kayla Haberstich helps lead Bartlett into this weekend's Class 4A state finals in East Peoria. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media
BARTLETT: UP AND DOWN THE BATTING ORDER
3B — Sydney Johnson: .255, 11 RBI, 27* runs
2B — Andreana Taormina: .319, 12 RBI,
OF/IF — Stephanie Tomazin: .313, 21 runs, 21 RBI
C — Kaylyn Zierke: .369, 26 RBI, 1 HR
LF — Alex Morales: .386*, 19 RBI, 26 runs
P — Tori Burke: .310, 4* HR, 26 RBI
DH — Holly Pagan: .328, 16 RBI, 1 HR
SS — Kayla Haberstich: .272, 3 HR, 27* RBI
1B — Amanda Montbriand: .309, 12 RBI, 26 runs
RF — Rachel Odolski: .318, 20 runns
* denotes team leader
Updated: June 7, 2012 9:24PM
That half-a-division title Bartlett’s softball team surrendered in the final week of the regular season may have been worth it after all.
Three weeks ago the Hawks had been cruising to the Upstate Eight Valley crown when three straight losses left them sharing the title with Waubonsie Valley. Coupled with two nonconference losses, the losing stretch hit 5-of-6 as the Hawks entered postseason play. But coach Jim Wolfsmith wasn’t worried, and called it a learning experience.
“He said to us, you almost learn more from the losses than you do from the wins,” pitcher Tori Burke said.
The Hawks (31-8) have learned well from those defeats — the major lesson being how to win close games like teams play in the postseason. And now they find themselves two wins from a Class 4A state title. They face defending state champion Moline (30-10) at 5 p.m. on Friday in East Peoria in the state semifinals with the winner playing at 5 p.m. Saturday at for the crown against the winner of Friday’s 2:30 p.m. game between Elk Grove (31-8) and Marist (25-15).
“After those three (conference) losses, I think we kind of realized that just one of those would end our season in the tournament,” sophomore Kayla Haberstich said. “So after realizing that, we all just came together and wanted to do it for each other and keep going.”
Behind the pitching of Burke, the Hawks won five straight in postseason, including a 1-0 sectional title upset of a Glenbard North team that had been ranked 24th nationally and No. 1 in Illinois by MaxPreps.com.
“The whole season we were building team chemistry and the last few games of the regular season were really intense, close games,” Burke said. “We needed to get that experience of how close it is between winning and losing a game. And I think that having that intensity coming out of those games and having that in our minds, it really made us push through.”
Now they have to face a Moline team that most regard as the favorite to repeat as state champs.
“People said the same thing about our chances against Glenbard North,” Wolfsmith said. “We haven’t played Moline, but we’ll give them our good effort.”
Bartlett hasn’t overpowered opponents as much as the Hawks simply have out executed them. Outfielder Alex Morales is batting .386 and catcher Kaylyn Zierke .369 but the Hawks don’t carry the .400-plus batting averages some teams have. Haberstich has 27 RBI and Zierke 26, but they don’t have the big RBI numbers some other teams have. And certainly with Burke leading in home runs with four, the Hawks have lacked fence-busting power.
“We’re not going to sit there and bomb with people,” Wolfsmith said. “We’re not going to drive balls out of the ballpark consistently. We have people who can hit the ball hard. We tend to be gappers, tend to hit singles, doubles, take extra bases, work the small-ball game.
“That’s going to save you more than it’s going to cost you winning games.”
Burke (20-6) has allowed only two runs in five postseason games and lowered her season earned run average to 1.10. With 49 postseason strikeouts, she has 187 on the season.
“I make them hit our pitches,” Burke said. “It’s me vs. batters. If you can hit my pitch, you can hit it. If you can’t, you can’t.”
Zierke and Wolfsmith have collaborated on pitch calls through the season.
“Coach and I figure it out,” Zierke said. “If (Burke) has a third idea, then she’ll tell us her mind.”
More than anything else, Wolfsmith said his team is going to state with the idea in mind of playing its own game — a style the Hawks perfected through those difficult times at the end of the regular season.
“We learned from it,” Wolfsmith said. “We learned to hit our spots pitching, play good defense without errors, and hit timely to win games. That’s been the plan in the tournament and we’ve beaten some very good teams that way.”
Now they want to beat a few more.