Softball: Palatine breaks through against Warren
Palatine's softball team took care of two curses on one day.
The No. 2-seeded Pirates had seen their last three seasons end with losses to Warren.
They had also never won a sectional championship.
But this year's history-making club (28-5) changed all that on Saturday by defeating tourney host and top-seeded Warren 11-5 in Gurnee to advance to Monday's Class 4A Barrington supersectional against the host Fillies (33-3) at 7 p.m.
"We all worked really hard because we really wanted to break the curse against Warren," said Palatine shortstop Emily Parrott. "We were really ready to come out and bring it to them."
The Pirates brought their bats, pounding out 15 hits to the Blue Devils' 11.
One of them was Parrott's 2-run homer -- her second of the sectional and third of the season -- that gave Palatine a 2-0 lead in the top of the third when it scored 4 runs.
But the Blue Devils (28-3) kept things interesting and trailed only 7-5 going into the seventh inning.
That's when the Pirates' cleanup hitter Amanda Stanczuk belted the biggest home run of her career.
With two outs and an 0-2 count, the junior first baseman smacked her first career grand slam over the right field fence for the 11-5 lead.
Sophomore left-handed reliever Rhiann Dick then finished up a solid 2⅓ innings to lift the Pirates to their milestone win.
"It feel feels great to say we made history and to know we can come back one day and see that banner on our field," said Brittany Padden who had a banner day, going 4-for-4 with a double and an RBI. "I've been struggling a little at the plate but I finally came back today and it felt really good."
Padden and the Pirates felt good when they got the big cushion from Stanczuk heading into the bottom of the seventh.
"That was awesome by Amanda," Parrott said. "It really helped keep Rhiann comfortable in the circle. It gave her the cushion to shut them down. She did a great job today."
Dick relieved for Sarah Grossman, who worked 4⅔ innings to pick up her 21st win in 23 decisions. She is the first Pirates hurler to win 20 games since Dani Boisvert led the Pirates to a regional title in 2011; Amy Mitchell also reached 20 wins in 2006.
"Sarah did a good job starting the game," said Pirates coach Nicole Capalbo. "But Rhiann did an awesome job coming in and shutting them down (0 runs, 4 runs, 2 strikeouts).
"She pitched against them when we played them earlier this season (2-1 loss) so she knew their hitters. She did the job, getting us outs."
"They (Palatine) probably pitched the best of anyone we've seen this year," said Warren coach Jenna Charbonneau. "That's a quality team in Palatine. So kudos to them and we wish them the best of luck."
Getting the job done on offense for Palatine were Grace Huff (2-for-5, double), Parrott (3-for-5, 2 RBI), Stanczuk (3-for-4, 5 RBI) and Dick (2-for-2).
Freshman Kaitlyn Reed delivered a key 2-out, 2-run single down the right field line which gave the Pirates a 6-3 lead in the top of the fifth.
Warren got to within 6-5 with back-to-back RBI singles by junior Caitlyn Britton and sophomore Carissa Topolinski in the bottom of the inning.
Palatine got one run back in the top of the sixth when Parrott doubled to right with one out and came home on Stanczuk's single to center.
One inning later, Stanczuk delivered the game-changing grand slam.
"Our coach always says you just have to breathe and whatever happens, happens," Stanczuk said about her big at-bat. "I just took a deep breath and said, 'We are up by 2 runs so what's the worst that could happen?' So I just swung and it happened. I'm thankful to my teammates who are always so supportive and backing me up."
Getting backed up 4-0 in the third inning made things difficult for Warren.
The Pirates also threatened in second inning, when they loaded the bases with no outs.
However, Warren' defense stepped up with two force plays to catcher Emma Gratz, the second one turning into a double play as Gratz threw to first baseman Kayla Nommensen to get the batter.
"They came out and hit right off the bat," said Warren junior Becca Geiyer. "So we had to try and keep up with their energy. They're always a tough team to play. They were tight on defense and we didn't hit quite as well as them. We did well but they kept hitting all the way to the end."
Warren ended with another stellar season and will graduate five seniors, including Swedberg.
"I love our seniors," said Swedberg, a Penn State recruit who went 3-for-4 with a triple and a double. "I think we were big part of this but we had such a strong group of younger girls. Moving forward I think they're going to be a great team and I think they'll go real far next season."
Warren starting pitcher Britton, who bats cleanup, went 3-for-3 with an RBI and intentional walk. Emma Gartz, Topolinski, Ashlyn Kitter and Becca Geiyer each had 1 hit.
Lydia Gratz threw the final 4⅔ innings for Warren.
"Our pitching has been phenomenal," Swedberg said. "Rarely do you see a home run off either of them. I'm so proud of both of them."
Capalbo knew her team was going to have to hit to snap the postseason losing streak vs. Warren.
"We knew we had to score a lot of runs to beat Warren and we did just that," said Capalbo, who starred at shortstop for Palatine in the mid-2000s. "It's pretty cool to play for a program and then be its coach for its first sectional championship. I'm speechless. It's unbelievable.
"Warren is a great team. They have great pitching, hitting and defense. We just came out ready to hit today and we out-hit them. That was the name of the game."
Charbonneau was proud to see her team climb back into the game.
"It was nice to see our girls battle back," she said. "Even though we went down 4-0, that didn't stop us. This is really a great group of not only softball players, but young women. It's been amazing to see them grow from their freshman to senior years.
"Obviously it's not how we wanted to end but unfortunately that's how it goes."
The Blue Devils kept the pressure on Palatine. They stranded three runners in the sixth inning.
"We had our opportunities, unfortunately, we couldn't get the runners around," Charbonneau said. "The score doesn't show what kind of season we've had or what kind of game this was. It was hard fought by both teams."
It was a memorable season in another way at Warren. Charbonneau was away from the team for about three weeks for the birth of her first child, Michelina.
"I can't say enough about how my coaching staff stepped up when I was gone," Charbonneau said. "Ryan Skidmore and everyone were phenomenal. We didn't miss a beat and then came back and made it to the sectional final, where we wanted to be. We weren't happy with the way things ended up but overall it was a good season."