Softball: New style works for Arrambide, St. Charles East vs. Glenbard West
Katie Arrambide opted to deviate from the usual braid or messy bun atop her head on Saturday.
Regardless whether St. Charles East's senior ace rocks a bubble pony tail -- her newest style shown on Saturday -- or whatever else comes to mind, the strikeouts, inevitably, still come.
Arrambide struck out 14 en route to leading the top-seeded Saints to a 5-2 victory over eighth-seeded Glenbard West in the Class 4A regional final on Saturday.
"I was a little more excited today," Arrambide said. "I think [it's] just realizing that we only have a few more games potentially on this field, regardless of how far we go. So that kind of motivated me when I got up."
"[The new hairstyle] kind of motivated me as well," Arrambide continued. "I was like: 'New me; new game day.'"
Arrambide has certainly started the postseason in style.
Arrambide sparkled in the regional semifinal victory over Rolling Meadows earlier this week, a 15-strikeout no-hitter.
On Saturday, the Hilltoppers (12-7) managed four hits and walked once.
The Saints (26-8), who have won five consecutive regional titles, now advance to the sectional semifinals and will host crosstown rival St. Charles North at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
While Arrambide shines in the circle, part of her success can be pointed to the development of freshman catcher Sam Gaca and the job she does in pitch framing and more.
"Sam is literally my rock," Arrambide said. "[2019 graduate] Paige Ligocki, she did the same thing when she was here. I've had the best catchers in the program. Not only is [Gaca] a great catcher, she's such a good communicator. Even being a freshman, she just knows me so well…super mature softball player. Yeah, she's my rock."
The Saints took a 1-0 lead on Elliott Sanders' run-scoring groundout in the first inning, and Kayla Richardson scored a second run on a wild pitch.
Glenbard West got an unearned run back in the third inning, as an errant throw to third base trying to cut down an advancing Ava Hartsell went into the outfield.
Izzy Howe's sacrifice fly brought in a run in the Saints' half of the third inning, but Hilltoppers pitcher Kiley Koziol socked a solo home run to close her team within a run again at 3-2.
In the fourth, the Saints capitalized on an error by Glenbard West catcher Stacia Gregule after she tried to catch a base stealer to second, but the throw sailed into center field, allowing Chloe Hild to motor home for a 4-2 lead. Arrambide then provided the insurance run on an RBI double in the sixth.
"This team has been amazing. Even when we couldn't play last year, it's amazing we could even play this year," reflected a tearful Koziol, who will play collegiately at Aurora University. "[This team] means the world to me. I started playing with them ever since I was in first grade so they've just been there ever since."
"Phenomenal group," Glenbard West coach Mary McGrane said. "Eight of the nine in the field are seniors, so it's a tough group to lose. Their passion of the game; their love for each other [will be missed]."