Softball: Libertyville continues postseason surprises; 34-1 Mundelein up next

The postgame joy and exuberance was proof of the belief the Libertyville softball team has right now.

Early Wednesday evening, the 10th-seeded Wildcats made it 3-for-3 in postseason upsets when they beat third-seeded host Warren 5-2 in the Class 4A sectional semifinals in Gurnee.

“The whole team is connecting and our passion is there,” sophomore pitcher Taylor Higham said after she fired a fastball for her fifth strikeout to finish a complete-game 6-hitter.

“It’s our energy,” said junior third baseman Emily Psyhogios, whose two-out, 2-run single in the sixth inning put the Wildcats up 5-1. “At the start of the season we didn’t believe we could do much. We didn’t really believe in ourselves.”

Libertyville (16-16) avenged two regular-season losses to North Suburban Conference rival Warren (23-8) to reach Friday’s 4 p.m. sectional championship against top-seeded Mundelein (34-1), a 9-3 winner over No. 4 Stevenson (20-11).

The Wildcats kept their season going by taking advantage of little things for 4 unearned runs and backing Higham (12-9) with flawless defense.

“When the season ended we talked that this wasn’t us,” said Libertyville coach Sean Ferrell. “We regrouped and I gave them an article on the power of belief. We said, ‘If you believe and focus on the things we taught you we can compete with anybody.’”

Higham gave up an RBI single in the first to catcher Katie Monroe (2-for-3) but used her changeup and control to stifle Warren until Nikki Peter’s one-out homer in the sixth. Psyhogios, shortstop Zoe Kinsella, second baseman Maddy Kleeman and first baseman Siena Zombolo made all the plays in the infield.

“It was amazing,” Higham said.

Reese Tyrakowski’s RBI groundout in the second and 2 runs on Lindsey Loizzo’s RBI groundout and throwing error in the fourth put the Wildcats up 3-1. Psyhogios provided some vital insurance with her line single to left in the sixth.

“I’m proud of our kids and my hat’s off to Warren,” Ferrell said. “It’s a nice win for us and we’re excited for the opportunity to play Mundelein.”

Especially with the fearlessness the Wildcats currently have.

“I’m excited for that game,” Psyhogios said.

Mundelein 9, Stevenson 3: One early swing of the bat by freshman Taylor Pyke gave Mundelein and sophomore ace Shae Johnson all the runs they needed in the first sectional semifinal.

Pyke crushed a one-out grand slam to center field and went 3-for-4 with 5 RBI and Johnson (23-1) had 14 strikeouts as the Mustangs beat Stevenson for the third time this season.

“It felt good off the bat,” Pyke said of her eighth homer. “I think it was really important (to get the early lead). It was a good energy booster and all of my teammates were cheering.”

Pyke’s double in third led to an RBI infield single by Emily Courtney (3-for-3) for a 5-3 lead. Pyke’s RBI single was part of a 4-run sixth started on a double by Karina Benes (2-for-3).

“She plays well beyond her years,” Mundelein coach Heather Ryan said of Pyke. “What I love about her is her confidence.”

That boosted Johnson as she increased her career strikeout total to 409. She allowed only 1 hit in the last 4 innings.

“She just deals,” Pyke said. “She’s so confident in herself and she’s a great teammate.”

Kieley Tomas also went 3-for-4 for Mundelein. Amanda Turofsky (2 hits) and Alyssa Shimanski had RBI singles for Stevenson.

“They really bought into the culture we’re trying to build for the program,” said first-year Stevenson coach Vera Pflugradt. “That’s why I believe we got as far as we did this year.”

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.