Softball: Crystal Lake South cruises to regional title
Christina Toniolo was masterful in the pitcher's circle while Baylee Kassel provided the offensive fireworks.
The result was an 11-1, 6-inning win by top-seeded Crystal Lake South over No. 3 Burlington Central in the championship game of the Class 3A Burlington Central regional Thursday afternoon.
The Gators (31-2), who earned their first regional title since 2008, advance to the Genoa Kingston sectional and will play at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday against the winner of the Rock Falls regional. Sycamore and host Rock Falls play for the regional title Saturday.
"It is very satisfying to win a regional with this group," said Crystal Lake South coach Scott Busam. "This is a fun group to be around and they worked very hard to earn this regional title. Christina was outstanding and pitched very well with the lead. She kept her pitch count down and was throwing strikes. With the wind, I didn't think anybody could hit one out today. It was a no-doubter. Baylee crushed it."
After scoring 5 runs in the first inning, Kassel gave the Gators more of a cushion with a 3-run homer in the second inning, her second of the season.
"I never go to the plate trying to hit a homer," said Kassel. "I knew I got all of this one. Winning the regional is an unbelievable feeling. I am so happy for coach (Scott) Busam. I am excited we got him his first regional in 11 years. He puts so much time into the team."
The Gators ended the game with 3 in the sixth courtesy of RBI doubles by Alexis Pupillo and Maddie Bush along with a run-scoring single from Kassel.
Kassel (4 RBI), Bush, Brooke Kuffel and Emily Sulikowski each collected 2 hits for the regional champs.
Toniolo pitched a superb game for the Gators. Allowing one run on a single by Abigail Sanders, the hard-throwing right-hander struck out 4 with 4 walks in 6 innings.
"I give my teammates credit for giving me the lead early," said Toniolo. "It is a lot easier to pitch with a big lead. I could throw strikes and just relax and trust my defense. My changeup and curve were working and I was able to use the wind to my advantage."
First-year Central coach Scott Richman, who led the Rockets to a 17-11 record, was encouraged by his team's effort all season long.
"We had big wins against Marengo and Woodstock North and won 17 games," said the Rockets' first-year coach. "We had a great season. We lose only 3 kids from this year's team and are looking forward to next season. We are trying to build a total program at every level."