Softball: St. Charles North squeezes past Fremd
Fremd played the final game on its softball field Saturday against St. Charles North in the Class 4A Fremd sectional title game, and Kaylee Goluch did all she could to keep the game going and going and going.
With her team down 1-0 with 2 outs in the bottom of the seventh and facing North Star four-year ace Jillian Waslawski, the Fremd senior fouled off 10 straight 2-strike pitches before driving a single to right field to put the tying run at third base.
Waslawski quickly settled down, and got the next batter to hit a dribbler to third baseman Danielle Trumbo who charged and fired to first for the final out, giving the No. 4 seeded North Stars a 1-0 victory and third sectional title in four years.
"I was just going one pitch at a time because Fremd is a very good hitting team," Waslawski said.
St. Charles North (20-9) will play York in the Class 4A Rosemont supersectional at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Like last year when the North Stars won a sectional title as a 5 seed, St. Charles North again is playing better softball in the postseason than it did in the regular season when it took fourth in the UEC River.
"It's not that we don't value the regular season, we want to put up some numbers that say conference champion," North Stars coach Tom Poulin said. "But I'll be honest. This feels a lot better. Playing at Rosemont for the third time in four years feels a lot better than seeing a banner that says conference champions."
Waslawski also defeated Fremd in last year's regional final, one of 14 postseason wins for the senior. It wasn't easy Saturday against a Fremd team that hit several balls hard especially in the early innings.
"Their lineup is stacked," North Stars catcher Grace Quinn said. "When you face a lineup like that you know you aren't going to strike everyone out. We put a lot of trust in our defense and tried to pitch to outs. Nine people on the field, nine people doing their job."
Nicole Kehoe (14-5) matched Waslawski with scoreless innings through six, and neither pitcher walked a batter. The North Stars had a pair of hits in both the fifth and sixth but Kehoe pitched out of trouble.
Quinn started the winning rally in the seventh with a single. Sydney Eby bunted courtesy runner Alyssa Domaracki to second, and Domaracki took third on Olivia Osborne's infield single.
With one strike, Poulin called for Jess Wilson to put down a suicide squeeze. Wilson executed, and Domaracki raced home with the run, ruled safe when Fremd catcher Lexi D'Ambrosio was called for obstruction for being in the baseline.
"We've been practicing that exact same play literally every practice so I knew I had to get it down," Wilson said. "I just did my job. He (Poulin) told us that is going to happen Saturday so I knew I had to do it. Thank God it was a changeup and it was nice and easy to put down."
The North Stars have used the squeeze to win big games in the past including Elk Grove on their way to taking second in the state in 2011.
"We say part of our tournament recipe is bunting the ball with a runner at third and less than two outs," Poulin said. "I was proud we were able to execute it. Today runs were at a premium."
Jess Mazur ripped a pair of singles for Fremd but Waslawksi was able to retire her in a key spot in the sixth after Hannah Ban led off with a single.
"Two scrappy and very talented pitchers," Fremd coach Josh Teschner said. "We felt we had a great approach against her. The first few innings we were hitting her hard. Sometimes in softball the ball has to drop. We just needed a big hit."
Goluch certainly delivered a big one for Fremd with 2 outs in the seventh.
"I was just thinking she's going to give me another pitch and I'm going to get another chance to hit it," Goluch said. "I was really stressed in the moment. I just thought I had to get the ball in play to advance the runner and believe in myself."
Teschner said he didn't expect anything less from Goluch, one of nine Fremd seniors he calls the "Divine Nine."
"Kaylee is a kid who doesn't know anything but fight, fight, fight, fight fight," Teschner said. "She works tirelessly to help her team. That at-bat was so much more than an at-at. It was representative of who she is as a human."
Fremd finishes 21-11 and moves to a new field on the south side of the school next year. The Vikings won their first regional title in 5 years.
"I'm proud we stayed together as a team and continued to fight," Goluch said. "We set goals and we made them and continued to push each other."