Softball: Bartlett’s two twins too much for Conant

The pair of twin sisters on Bartlett's softball team have been playing together on the varsity for four seasons.

Now seniors Lauren Ligouri (second base), Olivia Ligouri (shortstop), Grace Wilkens (centerfield) and Julia Wilkens (catcher) will play together in their first regional championship game.

That's because they helped the No. 7 seeded Hawks to a 9-2 victory over No. 11 Conant (12-10) in the Cougars’ Class 4A regional semifinal on Wednesday.

Bartlett (23-11) will face No. 2 St. Charles North (20-6) at 11 a.m. Saturday.

"Our first regional win — it's very exciting," said Olivia Ligouri, who will join her sister Lauren to play for Hillsdale College (Mich.) next year."

Ligouri's ninth homer of the season, a leadoff blast over the centerfield fence in the third inning, extended the Hawks’ lead to 3-0 and they never looked back.

Lauren Ligouri scored in the first inning when she led off the game with a walk, stole second and came home on a couple of wild pitches, A leadoff walk to Addie Moore in the second inning led to the Hawks' second run. Pinch runner Danielle McCoy then stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on an error.

The Hawks then produced 4 runs in 3 hits in the fourth to take firm control. Highlighting the inning was a 2 run double by junior pitcher Christina Stankus and an RBI groundout by Olivia Ligouri. Lauen Ligouri was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded for the fourth RBI in the big inning.

Meanwhile, Stankus (16-10) was taking care of business in the circle. She was perfect through four innings, recording 6 strikeouts. She finished with a 4-hitter and 9 strikeouts.

"She (Stankus) was rolling today," said Olivia Ligouri (2 RBI), who belted 16 homers as a junior.

Grace Wilkens (double) and Emma Engels each went 2-for-4 for Bartlett, which also received hits from Black Hawk College pledge and senior first baseman Ellie Klein, and Callyn New.

"It's very exciting to play with my best friends and get this win," said Grace Wilkens who will join her sister to play for Illinois Wesleyan. "I get to practice with them the next two days and then we've got the championship game. This is great."

An infield hit by junior Charlotte Wolf broke up the perfect game in the fifth. Senior Tia Splitberger followed with a line drive and Wolf eventually scored on a double steal when Julia Wilkens threw the runner out at second base.

Conant's other run was scored by junior Ava Falcone, who singled sharply to right with two outs in the sixth, advanced to second on Colleen McManamon's single to right and eventually scored.

"After we found out we were playing Conant we scouted their next six games and I want to say how well coached and talented they are," said Jim Wolfsmith, Bartlett's coach the past 21 seasons who won his 455th game Wednesday. " I really liked their bats. Their leadoff batter (Falcone) is legit. And I really like their starting pitcher (Dani Gemmell). She has a really good spin on the ball.

"Quite honestly, I thought the difference in the game was our speed on the bases. We didn't really square up a lot of balls. Olivia got a homer and we got doubles from Emma (Engels) and Christina Stankus but it was really the short game and speed that was the difference."

Conant graduates seven seniors: Jaina Halman, McManamon, LIv Mickelson, Callie Barna, Grace Valenzia, Splitberger and catcher Ashleigh Simmons.

"We definitely didn't play our game," said Cougars coach Kelly Wolff. "Things got into our heads early. Toward the end we started to do the right things but it was too late.

"It's a great group of seniors. We've had them all four years and it's hard to see them leave. They were an outstanding group and led by example the whole season. Seven is a lot to graduate. Now our young kids are no longer young and we just need to rebuild with them as veterans next season."

  Bartlett’s Christina Stankus pitches against Conant in a Class 3A regional semifinal softball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, May 22, 2023. John Starks/
  Conant’s Dani Gemmell pitches against Bartlett in a Class 3A regional semifinal softball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, May 22, 2023. John Starks/
  Conant’s Ava Falcone flies out to Bartlett’s Olivia Liguori in a Class 3A regional semifinal softball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, May 22, 2023. John Starks/
  Bartlett’s Danielle McCoy steals third base as the throw goes past Conant’s Isabella Portogallo in a Class 3A regional semifinal softball game in Hoffman Estates on Wednesday, May 22, 2023. McCoy continued and scored John Starks/
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