Many teams would be disappointed after reaching a tournament championship game for the second week in a row, and then coming up short for the second week in a row.
Not Hampshire's softball team, with which the words championship game have rarely been spoken over the years.
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The Whip-Purs ran past Waukegan 13-3 then dumped Oak Lawn 8-2 Saturday before losing to an emerging Class 4A power in Joliet West, 10-0, in a run-rule shortened title game of the 21st Annual Larkin Slugfest at the Elgin Sports Complex.
"It's a step forward," said second-year Hampshire coach Stacey Stepek, whose 14-9 team has now won more games than any Hampshire team since 2008, when the Whips won 18.
"They're all working hard and they deserve it. We're learning and continuing to grow."
Junior Haley Widmayer picked the semifinal win in the circle for Hampshire, and she deserved a better fate in the championship game.
Joliet West, which has now won 16 straight since starting the season 0-4, had gone ahead 2-0 in the second inning on a 2-run single with two outs from junior Jennifer Ames.
But Widmayer was doing a credible job of battling the hard-hitting Tigers until the top of the fourth when consecutive outfield errors on Joliet's first two batters opened the floodgates for an 8-run inning.
Hampshire's bats, which had pounded on the pitching of Waukegan and Oak Lawn, went silent against Joliet West freshman Kylie Robb, who allowed just 2 hits, a first-inning single to Widmayer and a third-inning bunt single to senior Sara Finn. While Robb didn't strike out anyone she only walked one and Hampshire's only other baserunner was freshman Peyton DeChant, who reached on a second-inning error.
"That's a good team," Stepek said of the Tigers, who lost to Plainfield Central in last year's Slugfest title game. "I told the girls not to hang their heads. We had a great day and beat two good teams in Oak Lawn and Waukegan. We played tough defense all day and Haley and Sara both had real good days. I see them coming together and one thing they never do is quit."
Finn and Widmayer each earned all-tournament awards and to Finn, there's no real mystery as to why Hampshire is taking a step up this season.
"There's no secret to it," she said. "We have better chemistry. We're hitting the ball really well and we're picking each other up on defense. There seems to be more enthusiasm and more wanting to play and wanting to be on the field. There's way more confidence now. We knew we had the potential to be a good team and we're all coming together."
In the win over Waukegan, Brittany Sujet was 2-for-4 with a double, while Aly Snider, DeChant and Elli Lapi each had doubles. Finn (2B) was 3-for-5, Snider 3-for-4 and Ashley VanAcker 2-for-4 against Oak Lawn. Widmayer added a double in that win.
Elgin won its first-round game 9-5 over Mt. Assisi before falling to Joliet West 7-0 in the semifinals and then losing to Oak Lawn 5-0 in the third-place game.
"It was a good day," said Elgin coach Dr. Nick Bumbales. "We hit the ball all day we just couldn't manufacture anything in the second game and we couldn't get the hit when we needed it in the third game."
Sophomore Jessica Rago picked up the win over Mt. Assisi and took the loss against Oak Lawn. Jenna Lombardo suffered the loss against Joliet West as Bumbales chose not to pitch senior Jennah Perryman in the tournament.
"She pitched Thursday and (Friday) and we just wanted to make sure there are no issues," Bumbale said. "Conference games are more important, and I thought Jessica Rago and Lombardo both did a nice job."
Perryman and senior Anna Eckholm, who was 4-for-5 with a double and a home run against Mt. Assisi, were named to the all-tournament team for the Maroons.
St. Edward, which won its own Chicagoland Challenge tournament last weekend by beating Hampshire in the title game, fell to Waukegan 4-3 in the consolation championship game Saturday. The Green Wave (8-8) played Joliet West tough in the opener before losing 5-0, then beat Mt. Assisi 13-5 in the second round.
Sophomore Lindsay Zdroik (5-6) pitched well but suffered both losses, while freshman Emily Stapay (3-2) picked up the win over Mt. Assisi.
Zdroik, who wenty 5-for-8 with a double, triple and 8 RBI in the final two games, was named to the all-tournament team along with Jasmine Deleon, who was 6-for-8 with a double in the first two games. Ryann Scully went 5-for-9 withj 3 doubles and 3 RBI in the final two games for the Green Wave and Megan Strong was 3-for-6 in the final two games.
"We played well against Joliet," said St. Edward coach Jaci Corn. "We made up for our mistakes against Mt. Assisi and we fought hard until the very end against Waukegan. It was a good day."
Host Larkin (3-13) went 0-3 on the day, losing to Oak Lawn 14-0, Waukegan 4-0 and Mt. Assisi 10-9. Alex Bednarski (3-for-4, 2 doubles, 2 RBI), Holly Zdroik (3-for-4, RBI) and Sophie Young (2-for-4) led the Royals in their final game.
"Game 3 the defensive effort was top-notch and we had 13 hits," said Larkin coach Anne Vogt. "You never want to lose a game that was such a great all-around effort from the girls but I was proud of the way they bounced back throughout the day.
"Once again Slugfest was a fun day for the girls and such a great opportunity to play a lot of ball against quality competition. The Larkin athletic department and volunteers did a wonderful job hosting and organizing the tournament. Speical thanks to the Elgin Sports Complex for the use of the complex and quality fields to play on."