Softball: St. Charles North upsets St. Charles East
Written above the St. Charles North lineup on the dugout dry erase board was a message that read: "Believe -- Everyone ready to help."
North Stars sophomore pitcher Ava Goettel and her teammates more than answered the message.
Goettel took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Her teammates provided plenty of run support off St. Charles East senior ace Katie Arrambide to upset the top-seeded Saints 8-3 in the Class 4A sectional semifinal on Tuesday.
It's the fifth-seeded North Stars' first win over the Saints since the 2018 sectional semifinals.
"We've been saying it since day one [that] we have every reason to believe in ourselves," North Stars coach Tom Poulin said. "There's a lot of teams out there that are supposed to do a lot of things. No one was talking about us, but they're very good. They spent a lot of time becoming good at softball and we had to come together and we're very young."
"But, they just had to believe that they could compete with anybody," Poulin continued. "We felt like we were getting to that point and then we took two weeks off [for COVID quarantine] and then we came back and kind of restarted. It's been such a crazy year ... I just loved their attention to detail today, their focus, their belief ... they were just locked in today. Locked in. They came here with a purpose and it makes you proud."
The North Stars (13-7) advance to the sectional final on Thursday at Fremd. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m.
"I woke up. I was super anxious ... but then, once we got here and then [had] warmups, it was just another game," said Goettel, who allowed five hits and struck out three in going the distance.
Goettel induced numerous first-pitch-swinging outs against the Saints, which helped keep her workload to a minimum. The Saints were set down in order three times and didn't push across a run until the bottom of the seventh.
"I feel like that was a big difference," Poulin said. "It gave her some confidence, quick outs. She had quick innings. I said to the girls and I don't know if my numbers are right: 'We're having like six-pitch innings and on the other side, they're having six, seven pitch at-bats. I felt like we were just really dragging out the innings, having quality at-bats, and seeing a lot of pitches ... I was really proud because Ava came in and was locked in and ready."
After striking out 29 batters in two playoff games, Arrambide was finally solved by the North Stars.
Leigh VandeHei led off the first inning with a walk and stole second before Ashlee Chantos' single. A passed ball brought VandeHei home and Julia Larson hit an RBI groundout for the 2-0 North Stars lead.
In the fifth, Larson smacked an RBI single to start a five-run inning. Anastasia Pappas followed with a two-run double and Auburn Roberson had a two-run double of her own to push the lead to 7-0.
The North Stars pushed across one final run in the sixth off Izzy Howe, thanks to Chantos' single, but the Saints had a bit of fight left in the seventh.
Sam Gaca, who broke Goettel's no-hitter in the fifth, singled in a run. Chelsea Campagna drove in a run with a groundout and Chloe Hild singled in a run to make it 8-3.
After Hild was replaced for courtesy runner Maddie Rouse, Kati Gheorghe smashed a long fly ball to center field which started a game-ending double play.
The Saints (26-9), Class 4A state runners-up in the IHSA's last postseason in 2019, couldn't quite replicate that run.
"I think it's an unfortunate day to not really have my best stuff or even average stuff," said Arrambide, who struck out five over five innings. "It just kind of came on a day that our offense didn't really seem to get anything going either, so those two put together, it's not a good combination ... things didn't come out as I wanted, they capitalized on that, as a good team should. They're really scrappy, they're good hitters and I hope they get far with what they've got."