Softball: Geneva continues surprise postseason run
Turns out Greg Dierks isn't ready to retire just yet.
His Geneva softball team came into the Class 4A Geneva regional this week as the No. 14 seed and with his 30-year coaching career ready to come to an end with the next Vikings loss.
Instead, three wins later over West Chicago, No. 1 Yorkville and Friday's 8-0 whitewashing of Naperville Central, the Vikings have the fourth regional title under Dierks and first since 2010.
They have never won a sectional championship but will attempt to make more history next week when Geneva (16-11) plays another surprise regional winner, No. 12 seed Plainfield East, in the semifinals of the Class 4A Plainfield North sectional Tuesday.
This year's squad joins the 2003, 2005 and 2010 teams as regional champs and might be the biggest surprise of the bunch considering they started the season 0-4 and 1-7.
"We didn't start out the best but we talked after one of the games and we said we need to get it together, we have a lot of potential, we can go really far," sophomore pitcher Shelly Deisz said. "It just means so much to win with this amazing group of girls."
Deisz handcuffed No. 9 Naperville Central (18-17) all afternoon in a game moved to St. Charles North because the Geneva field wasn't playable. Catcher Annie Saran singled with one out in the second inning -- and that was the Redhawks' only baserunner.
Deisz retired the final 17 batters, striking out four. Catcher Madison Femia squeezed a foul pop-up for the last out.
"We have been mixing it up more, being able to pitch inside and then go outside and combinations," Deisz said. "And obviously I have an amazing team to back me up."
Shortstop Sam Keller led off the game with a double. Redhawks starter Halle Arends pitched out of trouble, leaving the bases loaded, helped by the first of three intentional walks.
Keller's second double scored Isabella Walton for a 1-0 lead in the second. Arends caught a little too much of the plate.
"When I saw it was more on inner half that's my favorite pitch," Keller said.
A second run was about to score on the play. Instead, Sydney Haake was thrown out trying to get back to third base after Dierks pointed out she missed the bag and she had to turn around after almost reaching home plate.
The Vikings also left a runner at second base in the third, two more runners in the fourth and Arends was about to get out of the fifth with the bases loaded until a two-out, two-run single to left field by Haake made it 3-0.
"Up until then I felt we had dominated the game and it was 1-0," Dierks said. "It was nice we finally broke through and got some breathing room."
The Vikings broke the game open with a 5-run sixth. Keller, Sydney Erdmann and Walton all had singles, while the Vikings also capitalized on a couple errors and made the Redhawks pay for another intentional walk.
"That was a good day," Dierks said. "We pitched really well and defended well, flawless in the field really, we made a lot of plays. We hit the ball well all day. Our base running was atrocious. Other than that it was about as good as we can do."
Keller led Geneva going 3-for-4, lining out to left. Erdmann and Walton also had 2 hits and joined in with their teammates for one photo after another afterward.
"They have played their best softball against the best teams they have played," Dierks said. "We had a slow start to the season but once we got that behind us we've been playing really well."
The Redhawks will return almost their entire team next year besides seniors Arends, Olivia Balaun and Megan Foster.
"Our seniors gave us everything they had," Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum said. "Hopefully we'll be able to grow from the experience. But this is disappointing. I thought we were going to win. They were just better than we were today. They were better pitching, they were better hitting, they were better fielding."