Softball: Change helps Marist cash in

Story Image Katie Caulfield has been one of the key players in Marist's run to the Class 4A state semifinals. l File photo

Updated: June 5, 2012 7:32PM

On May 10, Marist came out on the short end of a 3-1 decision to Lockport, dropping to 15-15 on the season.

For RedHawks coach Denise Bromberek, it was a real head-scratching time. And also time for a change.

“My husband and I did some statistics,” she said. “The people I thought were going to hit well or consistently this season had had a rocky road. So I switched up the lineup.”

She also issued some challenges.

“I told (the kids), ‘I’m going to play the best nine. It’s as simple as if you’re not performing, whether or not you’re a senior, or a junior, a sophomore or a freshman, I’m going to put the best nine in the lineup.’”

Nobody lost their starting spot. They haven’t lost since. Friday, the RedHawks will be performing on the biggest high school stage of all.

Monday’s 8-2 power show against Trinity in the Rosemont Supersectional earned Marist (25-15) its first berth in the Class 4A state finals. The RedHawks will meet Elk Grove (31-8) in a semifinal at 2:30 p.m. at EastSide Centre in East Peoria.

Elk Grove, which defeated Jacobs 4-1 in the Judson Supersectional, is led by Michigan State-bound pitcher Dani Goranson (26-7), who also is among the team’s leading hitters. Among other offensive threats for the Grenadiers are third baseman Megan Keegan and power-hitting catcher Devan Parkinson. Elk Grove finished third in Class 4A in 2010.

The most productive change Bromberek made in the lineup was moving junior Katie Caulfield from No. 3 spot to leadoff.

“She was on fire all season,” Bromberek said. “So I had to move her up, because she gets on. She was one of our most consistent hitters even in our darkest moments of the season.

“So I put her in the leadoff position and she’s been doing a fantastic job. I mean, she’s not the fastest girl on our team, but she gets on base. And she’s got three home runs.”

Two of them have come in the postseason, during which Caulfield has registered at least one RBI in all but one game. Against Lincoln-Way East she was 2-for-4 with a two-run homer. She also was 2-for-4 with a two-run shot against Mother McAuley.

The RedHawks have been multilayered when it comes to postseason heroes.

Junior Haley Richy had a three-run home run against East, and produced the game-winning single in the sectional final against McAuley. Sophomore Brooke Wyderski slammed a two-run homer and a triple against Sandburg and was clutch against Trinity on Monday with a run-scoring triple and a phenomenal defensive play at short in the seventh inning.

Senior Maggie Gorman poked a walk-off single against Sandburg. The RedHawks’ only true slapper, senior Nicole Babrowski, was key against McAuley and Sandburg, reaching base four times and scoring three runs. Senior Ashlynn Kokaska reached all three times in Monday’s win over Trinity. Junior Audra Hecker was 3-for-3 against McAuley.

Strikeouts have been minimal. Power has been evident. But just putting the ball in play has paid huge dividends for the RedHawks in their support of senior pitcher Kristin Klutcharch.

“These girls have done a great job of contact hitting,” Bromberek said. “We’ve been working at hitting the inside and outside pitch, and staying back on changeups.”

It’s made for a team that looks a lot different than it did at 15-15.

Tuesday, Broberek was still getting used to the look of being a state semifinalist.

“It’s not even set in yet,” she said. “I’m still excited, not necessarily overwhelmed, but I’m just proud of the girls from the fact that they’ve been underdogs all season, under the radar, and persevered through a lot, softball-wise.

“We had to beat four teams (Lincoln-Way East, Sandburg, McAuley and Trinity) twice. That, in itself, is a tough task. The mentality going down there is going to be, ‘You guys deserve this. You guys earned this. So enjoy it.’

“This team reminds of my first graduating class (2006) They were labeled as trail blazers. They’re bringing it back, and it’s great to see.”

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