In a Class 4A supersectional in Rosemont that paired two teams few expected to be there, Bartlett and Maine West sure played like they belonged.
In the end, Bartlett pitcher Tori Burke held off the Warriors 4-1 thanks to some timely hitting and more than a few impressive defensive gems by her teammates. For the first time since 2006, the Hawks are going downstate in what will be their first-ever final four appearance.
Burke and her teammates celebrated afterward by doing nonstop sprints in left field until they were instructed to come and pick up their supersectional plaque.
“Coach (Jim Wolfsmith) told us to do that,” Burke said. “We usually only do them after we make errors. That’s coach Jim for ya.”
Burke (20-6) went the distance, struck out seven and allowed the same amount of hits. She out dueled Warriors junior Ariel Smolik-Valles, who struck out three, allowed four earned runs and nine hits.
After a scoreless three innings, the Hawks (31-8) took a 2-0 lead with a run in each of the fourth and fifth innings. Burke hit an RBI single to open the scoring bringing home Andreana Taormina (2-for-4). Taormina hit an RBI single in the fifth that scored Amanda Montbriand (2-for-3).
The Warriors (27-11) cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth on an infield RBI single by Angela Cruz. Burke was able to get out of a bases loaded jam in that inning by getting the next hitter to fly out to third. The Hawks put up a pair in the sixth behind an RBI triple by Kayla Haberstich and an RBI single by Montbriand scoring Ashley Jacoby (walk) and Haberstich to lead by the final score.
Katie Fitzgerald led off the sixth with a triple but was stranded after the first of two great catches by sophomore third baseman Sydney Johnson, who leaned over the third base dugout on a pop up for the last out of the inning. With one on and nobody out in the seventh, Johnson dove about five feet in from of home plate and snagged a bunt attempt by Gina Larucci. Johnson doubled up the runner at first to kill the threat.
“Just get the ball and get some outs,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t able to hit today but I knew I had to play solid defense on the field. This is so exciting.”
First-year Warriors coach Amy Gonzales had a long talk with her team afterward but had the look of a proud mother after she ended her post-game meeting with her overachieving team that in the regular season lost to Bartlett 13-0.
“They did a great job this year,” Gonzales said. “They really came together as a team, I wish I could keep my (two starting) seniors for next year. I think the mentality was always the same but they got too comfortable during games in the regular season. They really wanted it and put it together in the playoffs.”