Memorial Day weekend. Cookouts and parades. Remembering those who gave their lives in service of our country.
And regional championship Saturday in Class 3-4A baseball and softball.
Yes, summer is near.
Championship weekend actually kicks off for the Fox Valley tonight. While individuals continue to compete at IHSA state final events in boys track and boys tennis, the girls soccer team from Huntley will face off with Barrington in the Class 3A sectional final at Rockford Boylan. The Red Raiders and Fillies each went through marathon overtime wins to reach tonight's game, and the winner gets to play on next Tuesday in the Barrington supersectional.
Then, on Saturday, a dozen Fox Valley baseball and softball teams will try to extend their seasons with regional championship victories.
Here's a quick breakdown of those nine games:
At Larkin: Good to see Elgin in a regional final. The Maroons' 12-5 win over Barrington Thursday set up a regional final showdown with South Elgin, meaning Elgin School District U-46 will have a sectional representative for the fourth straight year. Elgin hasn't won a regional baseball title since 1995 while South Elgin is after its second in three years. Should be a big crowd and some exciting baseball at Larkin Saturday morning. Game time is 10 a.m.
At Huntley: Start time for the Jacobs vs. Crystal Lake South game has been pushed back to 4 p.m. so the CL South players can graduate first. This has been a banner year for the 27-9 Gators as they look to win their first regional title since 2008 with the area's best pitching staff. Jacobs has never won a baseball regional title and you can bet the Golden Eagles will be flying high Saturday afternoon for first-year coach Jamie Murray. The Eagles have beaten CLS this season, so expect a close game here.
At Lake Park: Want a Cinderella story? How about the Bartlett Hawks? After stunning top seed Geneva 2-0 on Wednesday, Bartlett will takes its No. 16 seed against host Lake Park Saturday morning for a regional title. Bartlett hasn't advanced in baseball since 2002, and it's not out of the question that the Hawks will be doing more than watching the Schaumburg sectional next week.
At McHenry: Another time change is at hand, which should be announced officially this morning. Cary-Grove, looking for its fourth straight regional title under Fox Valley coaching dean Don Sutherland, will take on Grant for a spot in the McHenry sectional next week. If you haven't figured this out by now, it's not wise to go against Cary-Grove in any championship game in any sport.
At Hampshire: Burlington Central looks to take the next step when it takes on Sycamore for the 3A title at Hampshire at 11 a.m. The Rockets have a group of seniors led by Tanner Scott who have had tremendous success over the past four years (108-27) and they'll be looking for their third regional title in the last four years.
At Fremd: You gotta love under dogs and that's what South Elgin will be when the 11th-seeded Storm take on No. 3 Fremd at 10 a.m. South Elgin's made a habit of being in regional finals (four in the six years of the program) but beating Fremd would be a real statement for a sub-. 500 team that pulled off a 7-4 upset of No. 5 Lake Zurich Wednesday. It's taken all spring for coach Jason Schaal to get everyone healthy and a set lineup together, so don't count South Elgin out of this one by any means.
At Bartlett: The Hawks, on paper, should be a lock to advance to next week's Lake Park sectional with a win over Glenbard West, but stranger things have happened. Coach Jim Wolfsmith's team had an easy semifinal win but over the last 10 days they've lost 5 of 7 games. Still, one would have to think Bartlett wins this one and gets a shot at a heavy-hitting Downers Grove North team in the sectional semifinals.
At Huntley: Cary-Grove will be after its third straight regional title with Lindsay Efflandt in the circle when it takes on Jacobs at 9 a.m. Saturday. The Trojans haven't put up the sparkling numbers this year like they did the past two seasons but only a dummy would think they're not the favorite here. Jacobs, though, is a sleeper. The Golden Eagles have a lot of quality wins this season. Junior McKayla Lein has done a great job in the circle and if senior Katie Kirker can pitch Saturday ... well, it is the postseason and anything can happen, right?
At Burlington Central: The Rockets were denied a 3A regional title by Sycamore in nine innings last year in Cray Allen's first year on The Hill. Now, with freshman Angie Morrow added to the pitching staff, BC will take a 27-8 mark and the top seed against DeKalb and sophomore Katie Kowalski, who pitched the Barbs past Cary-Grove and into a Class 4A supersectional last year. BC would like nothing better than another shot at defending state champion Marengo next week in the sectional, and Allen is one of the best big-game coaches around, so Rocket fans would be well advised to not make any plans beyond a trip to Belvidere North next Thursday.
Championship weekend. The end of the school year. It doesn't get much better than this.