You know the spring season is coming into the home stretch when county track meets begin, which they did on Thursday night in Huntley with the first of two days of the McHenry County boys and girls meets.
You also know it's time to think about the stretch run of the school year when Larkin's annual Slugfest softball tournament is played, which it will be on Saturday at the Elgin Sports Complex.
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This will be the 21st annual Slugfest and considering the spring weather we have to deal with, the fact that only twice in the past 20 years, including 2012, the tournament has been rained out, well, the weather gods have shone on Larkin on this one.
There was one year, 1998, when the championship round was rained out so Harlem and Glenbard North were crowned co-champions when they couldn't independently schedule the title game.
This year's field will be without defending champion Plainfield Central, which has been replaced by Hampshire. Defending runner-up Joliet West is back and will take on St. Edward, which won its own Chicagoland Challenge tournament last weekend, in one of the four 10 a.m. first-round games.
The other 10 a.m. games pit Elgin, which beat St. Edward in the third-place game last year, against Mt. Assisi, host Larkin against Oak Lawn, and Hampshire against Waukegan.
The second round will be at noon and the championship round at 2 p.m.
One thing that challenges coaches at Slugfest is a 14-inning pitching rule, meaning coaches have to choose the right spot(s) to use their No. 2 pitcher. More than once in the past a coach has decided to go with a No. 2 or 3 in the first round and suddenly his or her team is in the consolation bracket.
Challenge met: St. Edward had to move the Chicagoland Challenge from the Elgin Sports Complex last weekend due to a scheduling conflict but Green Wave coach Jaci Corn couldn't have been happier with the way things turned out at Anderson Park in rural St. Charles, the home of the Wasco Diamonds' travel baseball and softball organization. Diamonds president Bill Morrow and longtime area coach Matt Schacht, a Diamonds 16U manager who coached Corn in softball, basketball and soccer when she was younger, did a splendid job of keeping the fields in top-notch condition all day and the atmosphere was very friendly and sportsmanlike. I'm also told the sloppy joes were pretty awesome. Guess I should have left room for one.
"It was just a great day," said Corn, whose day was made better by her team winning the championship for the first time. "I can't thank Bill and Matt and the Diamonds organization enough for not only making their facility available but for the great work they did all day in helping us with a successful tournament. It really was a fun day."
Postseason look: The IHSA has released assignments for the spring postseason and in softball, Jacobs and Bartlett will each host Class 4A sectionals. The Jacobs sectional will entertain regional winners from McHenry, Cary-Grove, Huntley and Rockford Guilford. Those regional assignments are predetermined because of the Rockford schools and one interesting quirk from years past is that Barrington, which finished third at state last year, has been separated from its usual path east or north and will be in the Cary-Grove regional.
The Bartlett sectional will feature defending state runner-up St. Charles East, which is also one of the regional hosts. The other regional hosts are Addison Trail, Hoffman Estates and Rolling Meadows. Eight of the 20 teams in the Bartlett sectional field were ranked in the Daily Herald Top 20 this week.
In Class 3A, Burlington Central will host an ultra-tough regional that includes Genoa-Kingston, Hampshire, Kaneland and Sycamore. The BC regional feeds into the Marengo sectional along with regional winners from Rock Falls, Belvidere and Woodstock North.
Also in Class 3A, St. Edward was shipped east and is a part of the 19-team Glenbard South sectional complex. Regional hosts include Aurora Central Catholic, Nazareth, Lemont and St. Francis.
Westminster Christian will host a Class 1A regional at Jockey Field in East Dundee that includes Alden-Hebron, Kirkland Hiawatha and Rockford Christian Life. The winner advances to the Pearl City sectional.
Seeding for Class 1A and 2A is May 6 and for Class 3A and 4A on May 13. The postseason begins May 19 and May 26 in those classes, respectively.
Fehlman Memorial set: The 11th annual Fehlman Memorial Senior All-Star Game is set for Monday, June 16 at Judson University. The event, which honors the memory of Dave and Robbie Fehlman, is sponsored by Judson and the Northern Illinois Lightning. Coaches for this year's game will be Kelly Horan of St. Charles East and Stacey Stepek of Hampshire.
Crossovers: Having been asked this question by someone at almost every game, it's time to clarify. Crossovers in the Upstate Eight count in the conference standings. They do not count in the Fox Valley Conference.