St. Edward has hosted the Chicagoland Challenge softball tournament since 2002, yet the Green Wave has never won the championship.
Sophomore Lindsay Zdroik threw a masterful 2-hitter with 15 strikeouts in a 4-0 semifinal win over Farmington, then returned for the final two innings after starting and going the first three in the Wave's 8-5 championship game win against Hampshire at Anderson Park, the home of the Wasco Diamonds, in rural St. Charles.
"It's nice to win it for the first time," said fourth-year St. Edward coach Jaci Corn. "Our hitting was a lot more consistent than it's been the last few games."
The Green Wave (6-4) knocked out 34 hits on the day. including 13 in their 13-1 win over East Aurora in the opening round, a game in which freshman Emily Stapay picked up her first varsity win with a 2-hitter that included 5 strikeouts.
Then it was Zdroik's turn to step into the circle and shine while the St. Edward bats, Zdroik's included, stayed hot.
After battling Farmington to a scoreless tie in the semifinal, the Wave scored a run in the fourth, two in the fifth and another in the sixth while Zdroik had Farmington's hitters swinging and missing frequently.
"She's the quickest pitcher we've seen this year," said longtime Farmington coach Jen Fauser. "She did a really nice job."
Zdroik also hit a solo home run, while junior Ryann Scully was 2-for-3 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI and Megan Strong 2-for-2 with 2 stole bases for the Wave.
Then came the championship game against a Hampshire team the Green Wave had lost to 11-3 in St. Edward's season opener at the Rosemont Dome. The Whip-Purs came into the title game riding a 15-12 victory over Genoa-Kingston in the semifinals and a 12-1 drubbing of IC Catholic Prep in the opening round.
The Wave jumped ahead in the bottom of the first as Scully led off with a single and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Allison Stratman, but Hampshire came right back and evened things up in the top of the second when sophomore Ellie Lapi lined a home run over the fence in right field.
Hampshire scored three more in the third as Aly Snider's 2-run single ignited the inning, but St. Edward made it a 4-3 game in the bottom of the inning with Stratman and Julie Larson each singling home runs.
St. Edward surged to a 5-4 lead in the fourth as Zdroik's single plated Scully, who had walked, and Jasmine Deleon, who doubled down the line in right. Hampshire, though, came back to tie it in the top of the fifth with an unearned run off Stapay, who pitched the fourth and fifth innings.
Two Hampshire errors in the bottom of the sixth opened the door for St. Edward to win the championship. Sophomore Rachel Lesh reached on an error and Strong beat out a bunt that resulted in a throwing error that allowed Lesh to go to third. She scored the game-winning run on Scully's groundout. With two outs Zdroik walked and went to second on a wild pitch. On the next pitch to Stratman, Strong got caught in a rundown between third and home but she safely beat the throw to the plate to give St. Edward a 7-5 lead. Stratman's single then scored Zdroik to make it 8-5.
Zdroik did allow two baserunners in the top of the seventh but she finished things off by striking out the final two batters to give her 9 Ks for the game. She allowed 7 hits in her 5 innings.
"The defense was really good today so I wanted to make sure I came through for them," said Zdroik, who moved to 5-3 on the season with the two wins. "Our offense was great and we had a lot of motivation to come in first. I had a lot of faith in my team and it feels good."
Stringing together three wins for the first time this season is something Corn hopes her team can build on.
"We continue to learn and improve on the defensive end," she said. "It helps a lot when Lindsay strikes out two an inning but when teams put the ball in play today we made the plays we had to make. We're a young team but now that the season's in full blast we're feeling more confident and feeling like we can get it done.
"The Farmington game was Lindsay's best game of the year and beating a quality program like Farmington was nice, as it was to beat Hampshire after losing to them earlier."
Freshman Peyton DeChant had a huge day for Hampshire, going 7-for-13 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI. She hit a grand slam in the semifinal win over Genoa. Becca Hurst also homered in that win for the Whips (9-7), who played relatively well defensively behind sophomore Haley Widmayer all day until the fateful sixth inning against St. Edward.
"That's something we have to learn how to eliminate," said Hampshire coach Stacey Stepek. "It goes back and forth. Some days we have a bad inning and some days we don't. But the girls have progressed so far from the start of the season and Haley has pitched so well. We just have to eliminate the mental errors. It was a big win over Genoa but St. Ed's looked stronger and we were gassed at the end. But (the Wave) played a good game and (Zdroik) threw a nice game."
Farmington beat Genoa 5-3 to take third place and Illiana Christian downed Harvard 3-2 for the consolation title.
St. Edward and Hampshire will each play in the Larkin Slugfest next Saturday at the Elgin Sports Complex.