Softball: St. Charles North wins rubber game over Wheaton North for regional title
St. Charles North used a tried and true winning formula Thursday in its Class 4A regional championship game at Wheaton North -- two-out hitting, outstanding pitching, error-free defense, and plating late runs.
It added up to a 7-1 victory for the fifth-seeded North Stars over No. 4 Wheaton North after the teams had split their DuKane Conference matchups.
The North Stars (12-7) won their first regional since 2018, which was the final year in a streak of five straight. They have 10 total and will play the winner of No. 1 St. Charles East and No. 8 Glenbard West at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the sectional semifinals.
"Most of us lost a whole year (last year) and we faced a lot adversity this year between our COVID scare," junior shortstop Auburn Roberson said of the North Stars missing two weeks and about seven games. "To come back and accomplish what we did I'm really proud of everybody."
Roberson, the North Stars' No. 9 hitter, delivered one of the key hits, a 2-out, 2-strike, 2-run single to left field just out of the reach of diving shortstop Ellie Hubbard for a 2-1 lead in the second inning.
Megan Bauwens started that rally by getting hit by a pitch, Anastasia Pappas singled and Sophia Olman walked to load the bases.
Falcons freshman starter Erin Metz almost pitched out of the jam with two straight strikeouts until Roberson's hit. A third run scored on a wild pitch, erasing an early 1-0 deficit.
It stayed a 3-1 game until the sixth when Olman crushed a fastball over the center field fence that followed a Pappas single for a 5-1 lead.
"That was huge, that brought a lot of energy into the dugout especially because I got robbed the at-bat before," Olman said of center fielder Emily Sipowich's catch. "I just had to tip my hat, that was a good play for them, but that home run brought a lot of energy into our dugout and it was exciting to see them all up on the fence."
The North Stars plated two more insurance runs in the seventh on a pair of two-out run-scoring hits from Julia Larson and Bauwens.
That was more than enough for the senior Pappas, who held the Falcons to 3 hits. Hubbard had two of them including a single in the first that led to their only run on Lauren Vaughn's RBI single.
"Mostly just hitting my spots, using my defense. I have a good defense behind me," said Pappas, who mixed a curve, backdoor curve, change and rise. She has embraced a leadership role; her coach Tom Poulin calls her another assistant coach on the team.
"I am glad they look up to me and glad they stepped up and now we rely on each other."
Larson and Pappas led the North Stars' 8-hit attack with 2 each.
"Their lineup is hard to hold to one run," Poulin said. "I thought we made every play we should make. We made some plays look easy that weren't. Some of those bunt coverages and throws with runners in your way can go down the line. We made the plays we should make and Pappas was outstanding."
Wheaton North finished the year 20-7, quite a turnaround from a last-place finish in the DuKane two years ago.
"They have done a complete 180," Falcons coach Zach Peterselli said. "These girls have worked really hard and came back with an edge after missing that season. It was an absolute pleasure to work with these ladies.
"St. Charles North is a great team, we knew that coming in. I tip my hat to their pitcher. She kept our bats cold, and we have some great hitters. It's been a really fun season with these girls. Just a special season."