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posted: 4/28/2012 9:18 PM

Maybe we should have all gone to Rice Lake for the weekend

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Bummer. And I don't mean Derrick Rose's torn ACL -- that's a little beyond being a bummer.

OK, I'll admit it didn't bother me to not have to brave another day of cold northeast winds this week. But the cancellation of Saturday's Larkin Slugfest at the Elgin Sports Complex also denied local softball fans the chance to not only see the Rice Lake, Wis. team play, but also for those of us who have been around long enough, as well as new people, to meet up with Steve Salisbury, the Rice Lake Athletic Director and former Elgin softball coach.

Salisbury's email to me on the way out of town said it all ... "expensive trip."

That's the inherent risk of taking a trip to a tournament in the spring -- you might, as Rice Lake and Chatham Glenwood did this weekend -- end up spending a small fortune and get nothing out of it except 8-12 hours on a bus.

But who'd a thunk after all the warm and dry weather we've had all spring that Mother Nature would decide to be rude to us on Saturday? Maybe it was inevitable -- bring a team from Wisconsin down there and they bring the weather with them. Maybe we should have all gone to Rice Lake for the weekend.

This was actually only the second time in 19 years that Slugfest has been completely rained out. One other year the final round was canceled when a storm came rolling in, but over the years Larkin has had pretty good luck with getting the tournament in. Too bad that didn't happen Saturday.

But there were games: One team that did play Saturday was Bartlett, which won the Rolling Meadows tournament. After beating Maine West 13-0 Friday night and then Glenbrook South and Lane Tech on Saturday, the Hawks stand at 20-3 for the season, one of the surprises of the Chicago area. Since starting the season 3-2, Bartlett has reeled off 17 of 18 with the only loss being to Keystone (OH) in the Wendy's Spring Classic in Ohio -- the same Keystone team featured on this week. Bartlett's last loss to an Illinois team was 1-0 to Glenbard North on March 29 and while Glenbard North looks to be the unanimous top seed in next month's Class 4A Lake Park sectional complex, don't be surprised to see the Hawks come in at No. 2 or 3 if they keep winning. They're leading the Upstate Eight Valley at 10-0, but just one game on top of Neuqua Valley and two ahead of Lake Park and Waubonsie Valley in the loss column. Bartlett plays at Neuqua Tuesday and hosts Lake Park Wednesday.

"We knew we were going to be pretty good," said Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith earlier this week. "The ifs we didn't know about included pitching but (seniors) Tori (Burke) and Amanda (Montbriand) have ben phenomenal all year on the mound."

Going into the weekend, Burke was 9-3 with a 1.68 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 74 innings while Montbriand was 6-0 with a 1.51 ERA.

"The other thing was, we lost our 3-4-5 hitters -- Jacki Gulczynski, Nicole Beck and Lisa Matsie -- so who was going to step up," said Wolfsmith, who then lauded the seasons of Kaylyn Zierke, Steph Tomazin, Kayla Haberstich and Burke so far.

Zierke was hitting .476 with 19 RBI and 9 doubles going into the weekend, while Burke was at .400 with 4 home runs and 14 RBI. Additionally, Rachel Odolski (. 461), Alex Morales (. 333, 10 RBI) and Sydney Johnson (. 317, 14 RS) have all come through. Haberstich, while hitting just .259, had 18 RBI.

"We found the hitters and we've been playing great defense," Wolfsmith said. "We all felt the potential was there and we've been playing well."

Conference races: In addition to the dogfight in the UEC Valley, the league's River Division is not cut and dried like it was last year when St. Charles North ran through the UEC on the way to second place in Class 4A. The North Stars do lead the River again, and unless they stumble they should win the title again. But it's far from over. SCN is 7-3 in the UEC, with Elgin (7-5) and St. Charles East (5-6) the closest pursuers. In the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division, there's also a fight. Cary-Grove, which won the Valley title undefeated last year, is tied with Prairie Ridge at 6-1 and McHenry is 4-2. With senior Katie Kirker back in the circle, 3-3 Jacobs can't be counted out either. The Golden Eagles host McHenry Tuesday and visit Cary-Grove on Thursday. Surprising Grayslake North (6-0) has a 2-game lead in the FVC Fox Division.

Fehlman All-Star Game: Nomination forms will go out this week to coaches for the Ninth Annual Dave Fehlman Memorial Senior All-Star Game, which will be played Monday, June 11 at Judson University at 6:30 p.m. Elgin coach Chad Dahlman and Crystal Lake South's Scott Busam will be the head coaches of the two teams this year. The game is sponsored by the Northern Illinois Lightning and Judson University.

My annual plea: Seems like every game I go to, I hear the whispers getting louder about "can't wait for summer". Well, we all want summer to get here but these comments are because the people spewing them have disdain for their high school team/coach and just want to get to the travel ball season so they can watch their loved one play on a "better team". Stop it. Please. All kids should be encouraged to embrace the high school sports experience for what it is -- high school. The times that when you're in your 50s you'll wish you had back now and then. Encourage the athletes to perform to the best of their ability and be good teammates. And above all respect the coaches. Summer will be here soon enough.

Pairings time: Class 1-2A postseason pairings will be out this week and Class 3-4A the following week. The end is near ...

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