EAST PEORIA — Jane Trzaska's experience and unflappable nature in the clutch, and Alexis Silkwood's unflinching belief that she can get any batter out.
Those two endearing qualities of a competitor merged to make Glenbard South history.
Trzaska took a Silkwood two-strike pitch the other way for a two-out triple to score Payton Carli, delivering Glenbard South past Alton Marquette 1-0 in 8 innings in a tense Class 3A final at Eastside Centre and bringing a back-to-back state softball championship back to Glen Ellyn.
Carli, a freshman, beat out an infield single with one out in the eighth, and an out later stole second. Silkwood eschewed walking Trzaska, and Trzaska went with a Silkwood screwball for a triple to short right field.
“Those situations, they come up over and over again in a game. You have to be ready for them,” said Trzaska, a four-year starter. “I just let my bat do the work for me on that one.”
Silkwood (30-2), the IHSA's career leader in wins, shutouts and strikeouts, didn't blink at the suggestion of intentionally walking Trzaska.
“Not a chance,” said Silkwood, a senior lefty committed to Missisippi State. “I'm not afraid to pitch to any batter. Good hitters hit good pitches, and that's what she did.”
Glenbard South coach Julie Fonda couldn't have scripted a better finish, or a more fitting hero.
The Raiders' sustained run of five state appearances in six years started in 2008, when Trzaska's older sister Jill pitched Glenbard South to East Peoria.
“Storybook, what an amazing way to end her career,” Fonda said. “Jane's been clutch for me for four years. She's an amazing kid.”
Glenbard South (31-5) becomes the first back-to-back large-school softball champion since Thornwood in 1990-91. And, yes, with Trzaska and Stephanie Chitkowski the only returning starters, this was a most unexpected repeat. Several of last year's seniors were there Saturday to offer support, Chitkowski's sister Danielle one of them.
“It's unreal,” said Stephanie Chitkowski, who struck out eight in six innings of two-hit relief of Trzaska. “This is such a different feeling than last year. We never expected to be here. The fact that we won it is amazing.”
It was an old-fashioned softball final, filled with zeroes on the scoreboard and clutch pitching, fraught with an extra dash of emotion.
Glenbard South pitchers hit Silkwood on the elbow with pitches three times, and hit four Alton Marquette batters total. With Carli on second base and one out in the sixth, Silkwood came in and plunked Trzaska.
The opinion of intentions, understandably, depended on what side was offering them.
“It's very odd to get hit that many times in a game, that's all I'm going to say,” Silkwood said. “It got a little out of hand.”
“I can speak for my kids that we definitely did not go after their pitcher,” Fonda said. “That's Steph's money pitch, the inside corner. If you're going to lean over the plate, you better be ready to be hit.”
Playing its third extra-inning game in the last four games, Glenbard South pitchers were magnificent in repeatedly skating out of Alton Marquette scoring chances.
The most dire was in the fifth, when the first three Explorers reached base on a walk, Silkwood hit batter and an infield single — their first hit. Chitkowski (19-2), ever the escape artist on the mound, bore down to retire the next three batters.
Silkwood was hit again to start the bottom of the seventh, and sacrificed to second base. A courtesy runner came in, but in a bit of inexplicable bad baserunning on an ensuing single was tagged out by Trzaska in a rundown. Alton Marquette (31-7) stranded 10 baserunners, 6 in scoring position.
“That was a stressful situation,” Chitkowski said, “but my team always picks me up. I just had to collect myself after every pitch.”
Silkwood herself worked out of a pair of two-on jams in the fourth and sixth, getting a pair of strikeouts. With 11 strikeouts total, she finished with 1,908 career. Trzaska finished with two state titles.
“Didn't really think it would happen this year,” she said, “but so happy it did.”
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