Softball: Southwest Prairie teams closing the gapMinooka's #11 Sara Novak 3rd baseman fields the ground ball for the out at 1st base vs Marian Catholic held at home and Minooka won in 8 innings 6-5 on Wednesday, March 28, 2012. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Alfred Hitchcock had the film “North by Northwest.” When it comes to softball, the Joliet area is Southwest by Southwest, as the area is loaded with teams from the SouthWest Suburban and the Southwest Prairie conferences.
With five different state champions since 2000, the SWSC always is thought of as, not only the best of the local conferences, but maybe the best in the state.
However, in head-to-head meetings this season, the SPC not has only closed the gap, it has knocked off some SWSC powerhouses.
Last week, Minooka defeated then-No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 5-0, and also topped Joliet West 4-0.
“We have some really good teams on our schedule and our conference just gets tougher every year,” Minooka coach Mark Brown said. “In the past, the SPC was usually a two- or three-team race. This year, almost any team can compete and have a chance to make a statement.
“The quality of competition in our conference just makes us better and more prepared to face the really great teams along I-80.”
Plainfield East coach Chris Morris, whose team has gone 3-1 against SWSC teams so far, agreed.
“I feel that our conference is underrated year after year,” he said. “We beat a very good team in Lincoln-Way West, Plainfield South beat Lockport, and Minooka just beat Lincoln-Way East. We have a very strong conference. It might not be as strong top to bottom as others, but we have a lot of teams that can really compete.
“At Plainfield East, I try to get as many of the top programs on our nonconference schedule as possible. It might mean more losses for us, but I believe playing stronger competition will make us better as a team in the end.”
While the Indians stumbled with seven errors in a 7-4 loss Thursday to Joliet Catholic, they’ve also had some big victories.
“We beat Providence (on March 24), Lincoln-Way East, Joliet West and Marian Catholic all in a row,” Brown said. “We lost to all four of these teams last year, and that was nearly half our losses. So to win all of these games was huge.
“We have the same core group of girls back this year and they came back hungry to win and to take the next step. Last year, we proved to ourselves that we can play with any team in the state; this year, we are proving it to other teams/outsiders. The girls know how important these games are now as far as seeding for playoffs go. That is another motivating factor for them to come out and give these out of conference teams all they have.”
Minooka closed the week with a 9-0 win Saturday over Bolingbrook.
Joliet Catholic out in a hurry
Joliet Catholic didn’t begin its 2012 season until last week. The Angels opened with a bang, going 4-0.
“We have some young players and I thought we’d be figuring ourselves out,” coach Dave Douglas said. “But we have good senior leadership. I have no complaints so far.”
Douglas also loves to play the good area teams.
“Our local competition does a great job getting us ready,” he said. “Last week’s win over Minooka is a confidence-builder.”