Glenbard South's defense set the tone in the first inning of Saturday's Class 3A St. Francis softball sectional final.
The Raiders earned the shutout, advancing to Monday's supersectional in Elgin with a 7-0 victory against Nazareth.
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With leadoff hitter Shannon Cawley on second base and one out in the top of the first, Nazareth's Colleen McGivney grounded to Raiders shortstop Jenny Wittenberg, who threw out the batter, then saw first baseman Danielle Chitkowski throw out Cawley trying to take third.
Inning over, message sent.
"That was huge," Raiders catcher Jackie Wrona said. "And then we can come back and score 3 runs right away. That just shows what kind of team we are and what kind of force we are."
"That's an amazing play," Raiders coach Julie Fonda added. "Dani came off and threw a strike and (third baseman Olivia Ramirez) did a great job of putting the tag on her. But all that aside, (Wittenberg) did an awesome job of fielding that ball in the hole and throwing the kid out. Yeah, it was a tone-setter for us defensively, but it also gave us momentum offensively."
Brianna Meath led off the bottom of the first with a triple to the fence in right field and scored on Hannah Davey's single to center. Davey reached second on an errant pickoff throw and went to third when the ball was bobbled in right field. She scored on Wittenberg's single to left. Two outs and a wild pitch later, Wittenberg scored on Ramirez's single to center for a 3-0 lead.
"We made some mistakes early," Nazareth coach Kristen Stojetz said. "Same thing all season long. You can't give a good team, a quality opponent -- which they are -- anything extra. We can't be throwing the ball around, can't be making poor choices. I think we came out a little nervous and it got away from us."
Meanwhile, the Raiders (28-5) always seemed to find a way to get to the softball defensively, not only avoiding mistakes but taking away hits from Nazareth (19-17).
"They were great today, from Jess (Wilkes') stud pitching, a complete game, and (right fielder Rachel Cohen)'s diving play, Jenny's diving play, they were phenomenal," said Wrona, who endured 91-degree heat in the catcher's equipment. "And even to the point where Hannah's catching balls that basically would be home runs. We would be nothing without our defense. It was great today."
"They made a couple of nice plays," Stojetz added. "A shot to right, a diving ball to center. Credit to them. They made some really nice plays and unfortunately we came up on the short end."
The Raiders added a run in the third inning when Chitkowski singled, advanced to third on a couple of groundouts and scored when Wrona's pop-up dropped untouched midway to the pitcher's circle, Wrona hustling into second base on the play.
"She could have been mad and just jogged down to first, but she hustled down to second," Fonda said of her senior catcher. "That's good to see that they're still playing hard regardless of what the outcome of that is."
The Raiders got 3 more runs in the sixth when Chitkowski's single drove in Davey, Wittenberg scoring all the way from first on an outfield error and Chitkowski reaching third. Ramirez drove in Chitkowski when she nearly beat out a bunt.
Wilkes ran her record to 19-3.
"She was strong, and this is not ideal weather to pitch in by any means," Fonda said. "And she held her composure. Toward the end of the game Jackie and I talked every inning, and (Wilkes) was obviously losing a little bit of speed, but she was in their heads. She had movement and she was pitching to the strike zone, so we stuck with her because she's a senior and it's hers to kind of lead us and get us down there (to the state semifinals)."