Softball: St. Charles East, Huntley take center stage
Back on April 13, Huntley and St. Charles East squared off on a chilly Saturday morning at the Marengo tournament.
Bri Bower and the Red Raiders rolled that day, the sophomore ace tossing a no-hitter and hitting one of her team's four home runs in a 9-0 victory.
Flash forward to nearly two months later and the two local teams are one win away from meeting again -- and this time it would be for the Class 4A state championship.
It won't be easy for either team but they'll have a chance when they start play Friday in the semifinals at EastSide Centre in East Peoria. St. Charles East (25-10) faces Joliet West (23-13) at 3 p.m. followed by Huntley (33-7) and Marist (36-2) at 5:30 p.m.
The winners meet at 3:30 p.m. Saturday for the championship.
The Saints are making their second state appearance; they finished second in 2013. They advanced on a walk-off single by Krista Sbarra in the bottom of the seventh for a 3-2 win over Whitney Young on Monday at Rosemont.
They will see another hard-thrower Friday in Savannah Fierke, who is 18-6 with 260 strikeouts in 183 innings and a 1.03 ERA for Joliet West. The Tigers advanced with a 1-0 win over Moline.
Saints catcher Paige Ligocki, like center fielder Maddy Stout, is a four-year starter. Coach Jarod Gutesha loves the way she works with sophomore pitcher Katie Arrambide.
"The reason Kaite is so successful is she has someone like Paige she works with each and every pitch," Gutesha said. "They are so locked in with each other. I'm a firm believer that's what allows the two to be successful. We're not the same team if we don't have Paige back there.
"I used to always call pitches. Now there is feedback from me on the sidelines after an inning or an at-bat is over. Or sometimes Paige will look over and I'll give her what I'm thinking but it's really the two of them working together in what feels best for the hitter and the situation. Katie is a smart pitcher and Paige is a great catcher."
Arrambide brings a 16-7 record with a 1.74 ERA and school-record 216 strikeouts.
Stout and Lauren Luna have both hit 9 home runs, and Luna is hitting .475.
Huntley also has a power pitcher in Bower (25-5, 339 Ks, 1.14 ERA) and plenty of big bats like Reese Hunkins (.424), Grace Kutz (.427, 11 HR), Teagan O'Rilley (.437, 15 HR) and Sofia Tenuta (.413, 12 HR).
The Red Raiders are making their first state appearance and play a stacked Marist team that beat Geneva 10-2 on Monday. Angela Zedak has 22 home runs and 84 RBI for Marist, and she also is 21-1 with a 0.92 ERA. Lexi Voss is hitting .475 with 13 homers.