Softball: Mistakes cost Lake Park in supersectional setback
In a season that saw so much go right for the Lake Park softball team, highlighted by last Friday's 3-2 win to knock out defending state champion St. Charles North, nothing seemed to go their way on the big stage Monday.
Playing in front of a large crowd at the Class 4A St. Charles North supersectional hoping to see the Lancers earn their first trip to state since 2008, Lake Park uncharacteristically made four errors early in the game.
Needing the bats to pick up their defense, instead the Lancers struggled to solve Oak Park-River Forest's Bella Morales. Lake Park put too many balls in the air, leading to a lot of easy innings for the Huskies, who won 7-1 to advance to Friday's state semifinal against Yorkville in Peoria.
It's the 14th state berth for Oak Park (30-7), the first since winning the second of two straight state titles in 2017.
Lake Park (26-12) managed just 2 hits, and with all the defensive miscues only one of Oak Park's runs was earned.
"We've gotten to this point with a ridiculous number of flash plays, but it's kind of the fundamentals that are going to keep you going," Lancers coach Tom Mazzie said.
The Huskies, who only won 10 games a year ago, tripled that total with Friday's win under second-year coach JP Coughlin.
"We don't strike out, we're fast up and down the lineup," Coughlin said. "I was thinking if we put the ball in play we could put some pressure on them."
After Morales and Lake Park starter Mia Giammarese traded scoreless innings through two, the problems began in the third when Oak Park scored the first run without a hit.
Kelly Cortez walked with one out, stole second and went to third on a groundout. Lake Park intentionally walked Elyssa Hasapis, who has homered 14 times this year, putting runners at the corners with two outs.
Hasapis tried to steal second, and Lake Park threw down to get her -- but nobody covered the bag as the ball sailed into center field allowing Cortez to easily score from third.
That 1-0 lead quickly ballooned in the fourth -- an inning that started harmlessly enough with two quick outs and then a grounder to Penn State-bound Michela Barbanente at short. But a rare bobble by Barbanente kept the inning alive. The Huskies capitalized with two singles to score a run, then a hit batter loaded the bases.
Leadoff hitter Jordan Alioto hit a bloop that Lake Park's second baseman ran back and to her left for, but couldn't make the catch as all three runners raced home to make it a 5-0 game.
"It's a tough play," Mazzie said. "It's kind of one of those flash plays that keeps it close, but even with the play one run ain't going to get it done."
Morales, who will pitch at Salem College (N.C.) next year and has beat four Division I pitchers this season, retired the first 12 batters. Ava Arenz broke up her perfect game by opening the fifth with a clean single to the gap in right field. One batter later, Gaetana Calo laced a line single to left field to put the Lancers on the board, down 6-1.
It turned out to be the only run, only two hits and one of just two innings that Lake Park didn't go down 1-2-3.
"Our approach hurt us," Mazzie said. "We've gotten to this point not doing that (popping out). It wasn't like one person popped up. It was a pretty collective pop up day.
"I felt through the lineup one through nine we kind of made it easy on them."
Barbanente, who finished the season hitting .504 with nearly a .600 on-base percentage, was 0-for-3.
"I felt as a leadoff hitter. every playoff game I've gotten on first at-bat of the game and I feel I'm a confidence setter, booster for my team," Barbanente said. "When I get on they get on and I didn't roll today."
Barbanente will have a lot of fond memories of playing sports at Lake Park -- not just as a Big Ten softball player but also volleyball and basketball.
"I love competing but sometimes it's super frustrating," Barbanente said. "It's like flipping a coin, you never know what you are going to get. We have a team like this with so much to offer and the coin doesn't flip your way and it hurts and that's what I'm feeling right now.
"I love competing with my best friends above all things. This one stings but I know there's a great mark left from this senior group on this program and the bond and camaraderie and I'm excited to see what they do in the future. Every (future) Lancer to walk through the dugout knows that we fought to the very last out."
Mazzie certainly will miss a group that finished fourth in the DuKane Conference at 9-5, then got on a run in the postseason with wins over Streamwood, Addison Trail, South Elgin and the North Stars.
"This is as tight of group as I've ever coached kind of led by Michela," Mazzie said. "She is so inclusive of everybody. Sometimes you get superstars who aren't inclusive but she was. We didn't get here because of Michela, we got here because of one through nine, one through 10. And we kind of got hot at the right time. It's a special group. Great families, great parents."