5 burning questions posed about baseball, softball postseasons
The final postseason of the school year sure did sneak up on us, didn't it?
Seems to happen every year, though. As thoughts turn to graduation for seniors, and summer for everyone, the spring sports postseason jumps up and reminds us we still have champions to crown.
The final four of those IHSA championship trophies will be doled out the weekend of June 9-10 in Class 3A and 4A baseball at Duly Health & Care Field in Joliet for baseball, and at Louisville Slugger Park in Peoria for softball.
But before we get to that point, with regional competition beginning Monday, today we offer five burning questions in each sport. So, without further ado, we'll begin with baseball.
• Can St. Charles East send coach Len Asquini into retirement with a state title? The Saints (25-4), the top-ranked team in the Daily Herald Top 20, are the top seed in the South Elgin sectional, but they'll have to be careful to not look ahead to a potential sectional final against rival No. 2 seed St. Charles North (23-8-1). SCE beat SCN twice in their three-game series earlier this month, but all three games were close. Asquini took over the Saints' program in 1996, won a state title in 1999, stepped away in 2003, returned in 2012 and led the Saints to a third-place finish in 2013.
• Is Streamwood the real deal? The Sabres (24-8-1) came on strong at the end of the year and tied South Elgin for the Upstate Eight title. They are the No. 1 seed in the Larkin regional, but a potential sectional final date with a battle-tested Huntley squad looms.
• What about Mundelein? The Mustangs were second in the state last year and returned a huge number of players from that team. But earlier this season the Mustangs had a sizable portion of their varsity team suspended for violating the athletic code of conduct, and they faltered a bit on the field. But, they've bounced back and stand at 20-9 heading into the week. Records aside, they are likely the most dangerous 7th seed in the state. They'll probably have to get past No. 2 seed Barrington, though, to win the Hoffman Estates regional. A huge motivator for the Mustangs? They host a sectional.
• Who is the team to watch coming out of DuPage County? On paper it would appear to be Downers Grove North. The Trojans (29-4) are the top seed in the Romeoville sectional, but it would be unwise to count out any of the three seeds below them - No. 2 Naperville Central, No. 3 Oswego or No. 4 Downers South. Also keep an eye on No. 3 seed Willowbrook in the South Elgin sectional.
• What about Class 3A? The Grayslake Central sectional is loaded. Top-seeded Cary-Grove has stumbled a bit recently, while No. 2 Grayslake Central and No. 3 Crystal Lake South have each been playing well.
• Who is going to beat Antioch in Class 3A? While standout Jacey Schuler jumps off the page immediately (0.73 ERA, 194 strikeouts, .562 batting average, 8 home runs, 51 RBIs), the Sequoits are loaded with other key contributors such as Eden Echevarria, Jadynn Ruiz, Claire Schuyler, Emily Brecht, Sam Hillner and Miranda Gomez, plus sport a defense where multiple starters have yet to make an error this season, playing one of the toughest schedules in the state. Antioch finished third at state last year and stands poised to make another serious run at the title this year.
• How far can rookie softball coach Martha Kelly take Buffalo Grove, the top seed in the Class 4A Warren sectional? In her first season, Kelly led the Bison to their first MSL title since 1999 when Kim Czapla was on the mound. Kelly, a former standout three-sport athlete at Driscoll, is now a rare three-sport head varsity coach. She is also BG's cross country and girls basketball coach. Hannah Hull recently became the all-time home run leader for BG with 33, breaking the former mark of 32 set by Andrea DiPrima (Northwestern). The Bison could be on a collision course to a rematch with Barrington in the Barrington supersectional.
• Can Huntley step up? The Red Raiders (24-7) had their Fox Valley Conference winning streak snapped by Hampshire on April 19 and didn't lose again until falling to powerful Marist on Friday. Huntley would like nothing better than to have another shot at Barrington after the Fillies stunned Huntley with a 7-run seventh inning to win last year's sectional. That could happen in the final of the Hononegah sectional.
• Is there a tougher sectional in the state than at St. Charles North? We say no, without a doubt. From the top-seeded defending state 4A champ North Stars right on through No. 9 seed Addison Trail, every coach will agree it's a sectional that's clearly up for grabs.
• One team to look out for? How about No. 5 seed Naperville North in the Oswego sectional. The DuPage Valley Conference champion Huskies got off to a slow start to the season but have come on strong lately and can't be counted out as a Cinderella.
• One final bonus question. For many of the reasons above, is it time for the IHSA to consider seeding the postseason a week later? We say, yes. What say you?
John Radtke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.