Softball: Palatine refocuses on third-place game
EAST PEORIA -- Palatine's first venture in the state softball finals didn't go the way the Pirates were hoping.
But the Pirates are ready to move on to their final game of their finest season in school history.
Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit Greta Thompson fired a 7-0 shutout to lead Plainfield North (32-5) past Palatine and into the Class 4A state championship game against Rock Island (31-5) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Eastside Centre.
Palatine (29-6) will face York (29-12-1) in the third-place game at 3 p.m.
"The nice thing is that we are one of two teams left in Class 4A that still has a chance to end its season on a winning note," said Nicole Pauly Capalbo, the only Mid-Suburban League softball coach to lead her alma mater to the state finals. "And hopefully we can do that."
The Pirates just couldn't get too many good swings on Thompson (23-2), a senior right-hander who struck out seven and allowed 4 hits.
And the Tigers gave her a 3-run cushion in the third inning when they scored on 1 hit and 3 errors.
"I think we made the game a little bigger than what it was," said Capalbo, who used senior Sarah Grossman (22-3) and sophomore Rhiann Dick on the mound (7-3). "We've never played on this stage before. But the bottom line is that we didn't score. It didn't matter how many runs we gave up. We didn't move runners around and I think we were swinging at pitches that we normally don't. We were playing as individuals instead of as a team, which is what got us here."
"We just need to work more as a team," said Pirates junior center fielder Grace Huff. "But we'll come out ready for our next game."
Huff (2-for-4) and senior third baseman Maddie Craver (2-for-3), the Pirates' No. 1 and 2 hitters in the order, accounted for all of the Pirates' hits.
"I think she (Thompson) really did a good job of hitting her spots and throwing at the knees," Capalbo said. "And I think she was throwing a rise ball that we were chasing. She was one of the better pitchers we've seen, but our girls didn't make adjustments."
The Pirates' best scoring chances came in the fourth and fifth innings.
In the fourth, junior Emily Parrott, sophomore Rhiann Dick and junior Anna Selleck all drew walks to load the bases with two outs.
In the fifth, Craver belted a single to center with one out, and Huff followed by reaching on an error.
"That's a good team," said Plainfield North coach Kelly Ash of Palatine. "It was just our day today. We found the holes. We found the gaps."
A well-rounded approach helped the Tigers keep the pressure on.
"Early in the game we attacked with some base stealing and small ball and that was difference in getting the lead," Ash said. "I told the girls we played good defense and combined with the pitching from Greta (also 2-for-4 at the plate with a double) and our hitting, you can do a lot of things. We haven't hit like that for the last month. We really focused on hitting today in practice, and they came through. They did a great job backing up Greta.
"She's been remarkable. She's done everything for us this season. We haven't backed her up too much and today we did, which is great."
Junior shortstop Sam Mallinder (2-for-4, 2 RBI) belted her fourth homer and 10th double of the season for the Tigers.
"Honestly, this means the world to me," Mallinder said. "This has been a dream of mine forever and I'm sure for the rest of my teammates, too."