Softball: St. Charles North edges Marist in 7th to win 1st state title

  • June 11, 2022 - Peoria, Illinois - St. Charles North's Meghan Nicastro and her teammates celebrate their IHSA Class 4A softball state title on Saturday. The North Stars win their first state softball title in school history after defeating the Marist RedHawks, 3-2. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

    June 11, 2022 - Peoria, Illinois - St. Charles North's Meghan Nicastro and her teammates celebrate their IHSA Class 4A softball state title on Saturday. The North Stars win their first state softball title in school history after defeating the Marist RedHawks, 3-2. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks) Clark Brooks/PhotoNews Media

  • June 11, 2022 -- Peoria, Illinois -- St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei celebrates scoring the team's first run with teammate Sophia Olman during their IHSA Class 4A title game against Marist at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex on Saturday. The North Stars win their first state softball title in school history after defeating the RedHawks, 3-2. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

    June 11, 2022 -- Peoria, Illinois -- St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei celebrates scoring the team's first run with teammate Sophia Olman during their IHSA Class 4A title game against Marist at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex on Saturday. The North Stars win their first state softball title in school history after defeating the RedHawks, 3-2. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks) Clark Brooks/PhotoNews Media

  • June 11, 2022 -- Peoria, Illinois -- St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei slides into home plate to break a scoreless IHSA Class 4A title game on Saturday. The North Stars win their first state softball title in school history going on to defeat the Marist RedHawks, 3-2. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

    June 11, 2022 -- Peoria, Illinois -- St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei slides into home plate to break a scoreless IHSA Class 4A title game on Saturday. The North Stars win their first state softball title in school history going on to defeat the Marist RedHawks, 3-2. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks) Clark Brooks/PhotoNews Media

  • June 11, 2022 -- Peoria, Illinois -- Coming in to close out the game, St. Charles North's Paige Murray winds up for a pitch during the IHSA Class 4A softball state title game against Marist at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex on Saturday. The North Stars win their first state softball title in school history after defeating the RedHawks, 3-2. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

    June 11, 2022 -- Peoria, Illinois -- Coming in to close out the game, St. Charles North's Paige Murray winds up for a pitch during the IHSA Class 4A softball state title game against Marist at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex on Saturday. The North Stars win their first state softball title in school history after defeating the RedHawks, 3-2. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks) Clark Brooks/PhotoNews Media

  • June 11, 2022 -- Peoria, Illinois -- Players from St. Charles North rush the field to celebrate their IHSA Class 4A softball state title victory at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex on Saturday. The North Stars win their first state softball title in school history after defeating the Marist RedHawks, 3-2. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

    June 11, 2022 -- Peoria, Illinois -- Players from St. Charles North rush the field to celebrate their IHSA Class 4A softball state title victory at Louisville Slugger Sports Complex on Saturday. The North Stars win their first state softball title in school history after defeating the Marist RedHawks, 3-2. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks) Clark Brooks/PhotoNews Media

  • St. Charles North hoists the Class 4A state championship trophy after defeating Marist 3-2 on Saturday in Peoria.

    St. Charles North hoists the Class 4A state championship trophy after defeating Marist 3-2 on Saturday in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Margo Geary hugs teammate Julia Larson.

    St. Charles North's Margo Geary hugs teammate Julia Larson. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's catcher Sophia Olman (10) reacts with teammate Leigh VandeHei (3) after defeating Chicago Marist in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's catcher Sophia Olman (10) reacts with teammate Leigh VandeHei (3) after defeating Chicago Marist in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • Members of the St. Charles softball team celebrate winning the Class 4A state championship after defeating Chicago Marist 3-2 on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    Members of the St. Charles softball team celebrate winning the Class 4A state championship after defeating Chicago Marist 3-2 on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's catcher Sophia Olman (10) makes a catch in foul territory against Chicago Marist in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's catcher Sophia Olman (10) makes a catch in foul territory against Chicago Marist in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei (3) makes a catch on the run in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei (3) makes a catch on the run in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Ava Goettel delivers a pitch to Chicago Marist in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's Ava Goettel delivers a pitch to Chicago Marist in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Ashlee Chantos makes a running catch in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's Ashlee Chantos makes a running catch in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North head coach Tom Poulin applauds his team in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North head coach Tom Poulin applauds his team in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei (3) slides in safely to home plate to score the teams first run in Class 4A softball state championship game on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei (3) slides in safely to home plate to score the teams first run in Class 4A softball state championship game on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei reacts after scoring the team's first run.

    St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei reacts after scoring the team's first run. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Ashlee Chantos scores the teams second run while sliding into home plate in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's Ashlee Chantos scores the teams second run while sliding into home plate in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Julia Larson (4) wears her rally cap by placing two Gatorade cups in her ears in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's Julia Larson (4) wears her rally cap by placing two Gatorade cups in her ears in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Julia Larson (4) throws out Chicago Marist's Sierra Sass (1) in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's Julia Larson (4) throws out Chicago Marist's Sierra Sass (1) in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Paige Murray delivers a pitch to Chicao Marist in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's Paige Murray delivers a pitch to Chicao Marist in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei makes a catch in center field during the Class 4A softball state championship game on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's Leigh VandeHei makes a catch in center field during the Class 4A softball state championship game on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Meghan Nicastro makes a catch in right field in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's Meghan Nicastro makes a catch in right field in the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • St. Charles North's Paige Murray reacts after the last out against Chicao Marist to win the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    St. Charles North's Paige Murray reacts after the last out against Chicao Marist to win the Class 4A softball state championship on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

  • Members of the St. Charles softball team celebrate winning the Class 4A state championship after defeating Chicago Marist 3-2 on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria.

    Members of the St. Charles softball team celebrate winning the Class 4A state championship after defeating Chicago Marist 3-2 on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria. Scott Anderson/sanderson@shawmedia.com

 
 
Updated 6/11/2022 9:14 PM

PEORIA -- The tears streaming down Maddie Hernandez's face told their own story.

All the hugs exchanged, beaming smiling faces and the celebration that immediately enthralled St. Charles North's softball team following their 3-2 victory over Marist in the Class 4A state championship game for the program's first state title perhaps says all it needs to, anyway.

 

Though, above all, it's a conversation between North Stars coach Tom Poulin and Hernandez prior to her go-ahead RBI single in the top of the seventh to break a 2-2 tie that writes a story perhaps worthy for Hollywood.

"I said [earlier in the game]: 'Today, you're going to get a hit,'" Poulin said. "The moment, it's going to happen."

Julia Larson singled to lead off the North Stars' winning rally and advanced to second on Auburn Roberson's two-out walk. Hernandez, who had the game-winning hit in the sectional final to defeat Glenbard North, had another chance for glory.

Between pitches of an eventual 2-2 count, Poulin reminded her: "'This is that moment I was talking about.'"

Hernandez then lined Marist senior pitcher Brooke McNichols' pitch into the outfield.

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"I have to thank the coaches and the team, first of all," Hernandez said amid the swarm of pictures and hugs. "They never once lost trust in me. They knew I could do it the entire time. I haven't had a hit since the walk-off in the sectional and I was in a bad spot. I lost confidence in myself completely, but the team and the coaches never once lost it in me."

"My first two outs of this game, coach Poulin came up to me and he [said] 'I have all the confidence in the world in you,'" Hernandez continued. "You're going to get a hit this game. Just them having the trust in me; just going up there and being able to do that, I felt like I could."

North Stars junior ace Ava Goettel took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and left with a one-hit shutout in the sixth against defending champion Marist (31-6-1).

"It's just a crazy feeling," Goettel said. "When I'm pitching, I don't think about it. I just try to think about one pitch at a time because that's what everyone around me always says. Our coaches walked into this game thinking 'one pitch at a time. That's the only way we're going to win.' That [was] my mentality going into it."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Marist's Isabel Cunnea, though, tied the game in the sixth inning on a two-run double two batters after Goettel was lifted for freshman Paige Murray with no outs.

After Cunnea's two-run double, Murray coaxed a popout before Gianna Richy singled. Hanik popped out to center, allowing Cunnea to advance to third, but Nicastro's running catch in left on a scorching liner by O'Brien likely saved a run that set the stage for Hernandez's heroics.

In the seventh, Murray forced two pop outs before surrendering a bunt single to Sierra Sass. Emily Bojan then flew out to center field, right to a camping VandeHei, who squeezed the final out.

"[My players] battled their faces off," Marist coach Colleen Phelan said. "They showed up and played for the name on the front here. They wanted it bad, but we came up a little short. I think they should be proud of second place because it's an accomplishment other teams would [do anything] to be here right now."

St. Charles North (27-4) scored first in the fifth after scoring chances in prior innings came up empty. VandeHei, Chantos and Larson all singled before Sophia Olman belted an RBI sacrifice fly to score VandeHei. Megan Bauwens followed with an RBI single for the 2-0 advantage.

Goettel surrendered her first hit in the bottom of the fifth, a double to Breanna Hanik, but struck out Caroline O'Brien and forced two pop outs to get out of the inning.

Perhaps the final lasting image from Louisville Slugger Field that sums up the 2022 softball North Stars state-winning team is their dugout dry-erase board reminders: "quality at-bats, making plays."

And, finally: "Enjoy this."

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