Softball: St. Francis makes more history, earns state berth
St. Francis is having too much fun to stop now.
Having won their first softball sectional championship since 2005 over the weekend, the Spartans kept going Monday with a 9-1 victory against Lemont at the Class 3A Rosemont Stadium supersectional.
"These guys just wouldn't let us stop at sectional," coach Ralph Remus said. "They played a good game today defensively. I thought we were terrific. We've been the last three games, we made all the plays we had to make. So I was real happy with them."
The Spartans (28-3) will play Bishop McNamara at 10 a.m. Friday at the state semifinals in East Peoria.
The supersectional was scoreless until Bridget Rath stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third inning with runners on first and second. Rath's two-out triple to the wall in right-center field on a full count drove in pinch-runner Lucy Yunker and Kristina Sherwin for a 2-0 St. Francis lead.
"I was just talking with myself," Rath said. "I was like, my team is doing so well right now, and I just want to help them out. And I just swung, and it was good."
It was very good for the Spartans. Just what they needed.
"That just got us started," Remus said. "That got us on the board. And you saw what happened after that. Two runs, one run, three runs, three runs. We just kept hitting after that. So I think that just gave everybody the confidence they knew we could put the ball in play and put pressure on. And we hit the ball hard."
Lemont answered by scoring its only run in the top of the fourth, but St. Francis came right back in the bottom of the inning. Catcher Caroline Caesar's shot to right-center one-hopped the wall for a leadoff triple. Courtesy runner Brooke Hartzell scored when Annika Norman followed with a sacrifice fly for a 3-1 lead.
The Spartans rallied again in the fifth with two out. Sherwin reached on a triple and scored on a wild pitch. Rath walked and went to second on winning pitcher Carlee Jo Clark's single to center. Both Rath and courtesy runner Riley Banigan scored on Caesar's second extra-base hit of the game, a double that two-hopped the wall in left field.
"My first at-bat I was a little anxious and I pulled my front shoulder out, so I wanted to keep my shoulder in," said Caesar, who went 2-for-3. "And I saw a good pitch to hit and I just went for it."
The Spartans blew open the game in the sixth with 3 more runs. Malloy led off with a double, and Kelly Griffin and Banigan walked to load the bases. Kellyn Langton's double to left-center drove in 2 runs. Sherwin hit a sacrifice fly to right to make it 9-1.
"We were so excited," Caesar said. "St. Francis softball has never made it this far, so we're making history and we're just so excited to be here. Remus earlier this week was like, if you guys hit, you're going to state, and that's exactly what we did here."
Meanwhile, Clark (23-2) and the St. Francis defense as good as ever. When Lemont led off the sixth inning with a walk, the runner was quickly erased with an around-the-horn double play, from third baseman Griffin, to Rath at second to Tarin Malloy at first.
"Oh, and we've been working on that too. That's what makes it feel so good," Remus said. "So good."