EAST PEORIA — Bartlett beat No. 1 Glenbard North and defending champion Moline in a playoffs marked by upsets.
Nobody, it turns out, was stopping the Marist Cinderella story.
The RedHawks, 15-15 a month ago, completed a stunning postseason surge with a 5-0 win over Bartlett in Saturday’s Class 4A state championship at EastSide Centre.
“We made a great run,” Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said, “but unfortunately we ran into a team that was even hotter than we were.”
The celebration on the Marist side was relatively subdued, like the RedHawks (27-15) expected to be here. They were in the minority. Marist, which won its last 12 games to win its first state title, finished with the most losses by a softball champion. Only once before has a team won it all with double-digit losses.
“I’m still in shock,” said Marist junior Haley Richy, whose grand slam was the game’s big blow. “We’re the comeback kids, I guess.”
Bartlett ace Tori Burke (21-7), she of the three playoff shutouts, threw up zeroes for four innings. She met her match in Marist’s Kristin Klutcharch. Klutcharch (18-11) came into the weekend with a pedestrian 2.59 ERA and just 82 strikeouts on the year. She’s going to Iowa, but isn’t playing softball.
In two days in East Peoria, all Klutcharch did was throw 14 scoreless innings, outdueling Elk Grove ace Dani Goranson and then Burke.
“We’re like the miracle team,” Klutcharch said. “We were doing bad and then we did so much good.”
Bartlett’s shot at drawing first blood was dashed by a dynamite defensive play.
Dana Paul singled with one out in the third inning of a scoreless game, Amanda Montbriand was hit by a pitch and Andreana Taormina reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Kaylyn Zierke grounded out, the runner out at the plate, bringing up Alex Morales.
Morales, who hit the game-winning double against Glenbard North and go-ahead hit in Friday’s seventh-inning rally over Moline, scorched a line drive that Marist third baseman Katie Caulfield speared.
Bartlett (32-9) never did mount a better rally.
“Great play by the third baseman. That was a rocket shot,” Wolfsmith said. “If that gets by her, that may clear the bases. That’s what good softball is all about.”
Marist finally broke through in the fifth off Burke. Maggie Gorman, who hit the game-winning homer to beat Elk Grove, doubled into the corner leading off. After a sacrifice three straight batters reached on a hit by pitch and two bunt singles, the second squeeze scoring Gorman with the game’s first run.
The count ran full on Richy, who tomahawked a high screwball from Burke for a grand slam to left, her seventh homer of the year. Burke had struck out Richy on the same pitch in the fourth.
“I tried to come in again, and I think she was expecting it,” Burke said. “To be honest once I released it I don’t remember or know what happened until it went over the fence. One pitch I’d like to take back.”
Sadness was the prevailing emotion on the Bartlett side, but both Wolfsmith and Burke predicted it would change once perspective hit. Bartlett’s second-place finish is its best-ever in softball, with a team few heralded before the season.
“We didn’t want this speech, we wanted to be talking about the state championship,” Wolfsmith said, “but what you want them to realize is that the sadness of the losing will pass, and the pride of the accomplishment will kick in. You want to enjoy how special it is, because you never know when it’s going to happen again.”
Bartlett started the season 24-3, held on to win a share of the Upstate Eight Valley in a rough last week, then got hot again at the right time. And the Hawks did it starting just three seniors.
“Getting the opportunity to play in a game like this is something we dreamed about since we were little,” said Burke, one of those seniors. “Just getting here is something for all of us to be proud of. The tears we’re crying are tears of disappointment and success at the same time.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.