Saturday's Chicagoland Challenge softball tournament promises to be just that -- a challenge -- for the seven participating teams.
One of the challenges for all the teams involved in the tournament will be depth. It's ACT testing day and even though the first round of the three-game format won't start until noon, several teams will be missing key players for at least a part of their first game.
This is the 14th year St. Edward has held the tournament and for the second straight year the Wasco Diamonds' facility at Anderson Park in rural St. Charles will be the venue.
The tournament field was reduced to seven teams this week when Francis Parker dropped out and due to ACT testing, a replacement team wasn't available. Thus, St. Edward will play Genoa-Kingston in a first round game that, in essence, will be a nonconference game for each team as each will advance to the semifinals regardless of the outcome.
IC Catholic Prep agreed to take Parker's place in the bracket and play two games on the consolation side.
Hampshire takes on Illiana Christian and Harvard faces downstate Farmington in the other first round contests. The Hampshire-Illiana winner will play St. Edward and the Farmington-Harvard winner meets Genoa in the semifinals.
The Green Wave won the championship last year for the first time and at 10-1-1 so far this season, coach Jaci Corn's squad has hopes of successfully defending the title.
"We've been playing very consistent softball so far this season," Corn said. "We're hoping that carries into Saturday and we can successfully defend the championship."
The Green Wave, whose only loss is to Class 3A and Metro Suburban West power Glenbard South, have fashioned their successful start behind the stellar pitching of junior Lindsay Zdroik and a balanced offense that has been powered by a strong top to middle of the lineup.
Zdroik, a Valparaiso recruit, is 9-1-1 on the season and has allowed only 11 earned runs in 69 innings (1.12 ERA). She has struck out 113 batters and walked only 11. She's also hitting .550 with a home run and 14 RBI.
Senior shortstop Ryann Scully (. 488, 4 2Bs, 3 3Bs, HR, 12 RBI), junior catcher Allie Stratman (. 500, 7 2Bs, 4 HRs, 15 RBI) and sophomore outfielder Devyn Ernst (. 526, 3 2Bs, 12 RBI) are the Wave's other offensive leaders.
Stratman says winning has bred confidence among the Green Wave players.
"Having so many wins already has helped our confidence a lot," Stratman said after delivering the game-winning hit in a 3-1 win over Wheaton Academy on Thursday. "We know we can do it and that makes it a lot easier to focus."
Even though each team will advance to the semifinals, the Green Wave's first game against G-K (9-3) promises to be a good test. The Cogs, who fell to Big Northern East power Marengo 7-2 on Thursday, are led by senior pitcher Baylie Ullmark and junior catcher Kendyl Strack.
Hampshire (4-10) has struggled a bit this season but the Whip-Purs come into Saturday on a 2-game winning streak, having dumped Woodstock North and Woodstock the last two days in Fox Valley Conference Fox Division action.
The Whips, who finished second to St. Edward in last year's tournament, are led by senior pitcher Haley Widmayer, juniors Aly Snider and Ellie Lapi and sophomores Peyton DeChant and Lauren Egger.
Illiana Christian, a longtime participant of the tournament, brings one of the mostly recognizable names in Illinois softball history to the tournament in first-year head coach NicoleTerpstra-Wondaal, who won 70 games in the pitchers circle when she played for Illiana between 1992 and 1995, before she went on to pitch DePaul into the 1999 College World Series, when her catcher was Larkin graduate Katy Carter.
Slugfest pairings: The 22nd annual Larkin Slugfest will be played next Saturday at the Elgin Sports Complex. With Waukegan having dropped out it, too, will be a 7-team tournament.
Host Larkin will take a first-round bye and play just two games while all the other teams get three games. Elgin takes on Joliet West, St. Edward meets Hampshire, and Dundee-Crown plays Oak Lawn in the first round at 10 a.m.
Conference clarification: The question comes up every year so, to be clear, all games in the Upstate Eight Conference count toward the standings. Champions are crowned in the River and Valley divisions but all 22 scheduled games count in the overall standings. That is not the case in the Fox Valley Conference, where crossovers do not count toward determining the division champs.
Condolences: We were saddened this week to learn of the passing of former longtime area coach Tom Yore.
Yore, 79, passed away on April 10 in Lake Forest. He spent many years coaching basketball, softball and golf at Streamwood and Larkin, among other schools. An educator for over 40 years, Yore taught history and coached at Gordon Tech and Weber before coming to Streamwood and then Larkin, where he coached his daughter, Kyle, on the softball team as an assistant for Larry Hight.
A great storyteller, Yore had one of the driest yet one of the most sparkling senses of humor you could ask for. In his final years of coaching before retirement he moved, well, we'll say slowly to be kind, and a favorite pastime of fans (and reporters) at Larkin games was timing how long it took him to get from the third base dugout to the first base coaches box each inning.
I had the pleasure of getting to know Tom quite well when Kyle played summer travel softball for the Elgin Heat and the guy was just a lot of fun to be around. He was an "old school" coach, but he was a kind man who always had his athletes' best interests at heart.
Services will be private and the family requests, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Jimmy V Cancer Research Foundation. More information can be found at jimmyv.org.