It came to my attention today that Naperville North freshman outfielder Sammy Marshall broke the school record this season for steals. Marshall finished with 26 stolen bases this season, the most in the area. The previous record was held by Jan Mountcastle, who had 23 steals in 1979. Marshall also scored 20 runs this season to lead the Huskies.
Recently in Softball Category
Selecting The Sun's All-City softball team is one of my most difficult and fun job responsibilities. There are usually three or four no-brainers and then the list gets trickier and takes a few days to sort out. Since I make the list, I thought I'd share with our Heat Index readers the five rules I employ when making this list. Remember, these are my rules. I can't speak for how my colleagues determine their All-City selections.
Plainfield South had an interesting advantage going into Saturday's 3-2 win over Naperville Central in the Bolingbrook Sectional championship - they didn't realize they were supposed to lose.
I'm not sure what Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum's reaction was when he found out that his fourth-seeded Redhawks will meet No. 6 Plainfield South in the Bolingbrook Sectional final at 9 a.m. on Saturday, but I would've groaned.
I'm a big believer in "the hump" - that imaginary mental obstacle that gets in the way of teams usually on the losing end of a rivalry for consecutive games. Some people might say, "Whatever. If you're talented enough, you'll win." I disagree. Something happens to even the most talented squads when they encounter "the hump." It's not easy to explain, but you can almost taste the feeling of inevitability that favors the winning team. Call it a mental haze, but the longer consecutive losses continue, the thicker it becomes.
I've only gotten to witness the clearing of that haze three times in my sports writing career: 1) When Waubonsie Valley football beat Neuqua Valley last season; 2) When Illinois football beat Wisconsin in Big Ten play; and 3) When Naperville Central softball pulled out a 2-0 victory over Plainfield Central on Wednesday to advance to their first sectional title game since 1989. Some rivalries go back and forth and I'll admit that having balance is special and probably more satisfying for fans, but in my mind nothing beats clearing "the hump."
A few days ago, I wrote a blog on the DuPage Valley, Upstate Eight and East Suburban Catholic all-conference lists. I've gotten a couple of emails because I goofed up and made some readers think that the entire lists would appear after clicking on the link. But all I actually posted were the picks from our area teams. Since there is no way to link to the DVC and UEC, because for some reason it is beyond those conferences to maintain useful websites, I have typed up the complete list. I've also provided a link to the complete ESCC list. Just click on the link below and enjoy.
Naperville Central junior pitcher Natalie Wunderlich made an interesting comment following Saturday's 3-0 regional title victory over Downers Grove North. When asked what she thought about facing top-seeded Plainfield Central in the Bolingbrook Sectional semifinals, Wunderlich said her team is smarter than the one that fell to the Wildcats 1-0 on April 29. And you know what? I think she's on to something.
The DuPage Valley, Upstate Eight and East Suburban Catholic Conferences announced their all-conference lists this week. For a complete list, just click the link below.
Benet and Naperville Central will play for regional titles on Saturday after surviving the semifinals this week, but both will have a tough road to travel on the way to the Bolingbrook Sectional semifinals ... I think.
Benet's battle is uphill because we know the Redwings will have to face No. 1 Plainfield Central. Central's path is more mysterious because as of 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, West Aurora has yet to report a score to the IHSA ScoreZone letting softball fans know the winner between Wednesday's matchup with Downers Grove North. So, let's talk about Benet.
Following Neuqua Valley's 5-3 loss to Downers Grove South on Thursday, Neuqua coach Michelle Schmidt made a good point about how, once the season starts, there's hardly any down time to work out a team's kinks.
"There's no time to work on what you want to work on," she said. "We've had two practices since April 1."
It's frustrating for all teams, but exacerbating the grueling schedule has been this season's weather. As Lake Park coach Cray Allen pointed out last Monday, many teams have been unable to get into a rhythm. Squads play two games and then get rained out. So, there is down time, just not the kind that coaches can really use to their benefit.
Allen thinks the weather craziness has created execution problems for many teams. Coaches and players can't get on the same page when it comes to pulling off the little things that win games. Allen went as far to say that the teams that have been on a roll the last couple weeks may be the ones that hang around the longest during the postseason. I agree. I also think this is great news for Neuqua.
The playoffs are always about momentum, but it seems that this season it's even more important than ever. Neuqua Valley has been playing as good as anyone over the last few weeks. The Wildcats have beaten all the teams they were supposed to beat and hung tough with big name squads like Bartlett, Lake Park and Downers Grove South, losing those games by a combined four runs. After a slow start, the Wildcats have jelled at just the right time, which makes them a scary "cinderella team." And I use that term lightly, because Neuqua is much better than the 11 seed it drew.
"We are 100 percent capable of winning this regional, but we've got to play our game," Schmidt said.
With the exception of the sacrifice bunt and a few gaffes on defense, the Wildcats have been playing their game extremely well as of late. I think an upset of the Mustangs in a regional title rematch is entirely possible. What do you think? Are any other "cinderella teams" on a roll, ready to make some noise?
Not long ago, I overheard a parent suggest that a tournament between teams from the Upstate Eight Conference and the DuPage Valley Conference should be staged at the start of the season. The parent in question was just making a casual remark, but I think it's a really good idea.
A single elimination, bracket-style tournament could take place over the weekend at Neuqua Valley, where the numerous park district fields could be utilized to host simultaneous games. Having some of the best talent in the state gathered in the same place for a day of softball games would definitely attract a crowd. Two conference schools could act as hosts and split the revenue from concession sales and admission. Not to mention, intriguing matchups like Naperville Central vs. Lake Park and Neuqua Valley vs. West Aurora could play out.
What do you think?