Oswego East sectional up for grabsNaperville North's Kendall Vassar snags a pop-up bunt attempt. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 31, 2011 7:24PM
Anything goes at the Oswego East Class 4A Sectional.
Between the four softball teams playing for the title — second-seeded Downers Grove South, No. 3 Naperville Central, No. 5 Benet and No. 8 Naperville North — there are a total of 96 wins (and 38 losses) this year, 30 all-time regional titles, 11 Division I-bound players and two coaches (the Mustangs’ Ron Havelka and the Redhawks’ Andy Nussbaum) who have 500-plus wins under their belts.
All four teams have played one another in the regular season — Naperville North beat Benet, but lost to Downers Grove South and Naperville Central twice. The Redhawks beat Benet, but lost to the Mustangs, who lost to the Redwings.
Regardless, each team is playing its best softball of the season, which makes this sectional both unpredictable and exciting.
“There is no doubt any of the four can win,” Benet coach Jerry Schilf said. “I don’t think you can discount anyone.”
“Everyone knows one another, so there won’t be too many secrets or surprises,” Naperville North coach Jerry Kedziora added. “These are going to be intense games.”
The sectional final will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday. The winner will play the survivor of the Morton Sectional (either Richards, St. Ignatius, Mother McAuley or Trinity) in the Hinsdale South Supersectional in Darien at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
Benet and Naperville North will face off in the first semifinal game 4:30 p.m. today. The Redwings won their seventh regional title in program history (sixth with Schilf coaching) after beating No. 3 seed Plainfield Central, 7-2, in the Benet Regional final. They have won 11 of their last 12 games and are now 27-10. In the regular season, the Huskies won, 1-0, on April 13.
Senior center fielder Mikayla Panko is headed to the University of Massachusetts, catcher Kendall Duffy to Bradley and first baseman Nora McGuire is headed to New York University at Buffalo. Pitcher Allyson Staats is 25-9 this season.
“We’ve been playing pretty darn good lately,” Schilf said. “We’ve been hot lately, but so is Naperville North.”
Naperville North upset No. 1 seed Downers Grove North, 5-2, for its third regional title (at Plainfield East) in program history. The Huskies are 18-12 overall and have senior leadoff batter and shortstop Sammy Marshall going to Western Illinois, senior pitcher Emily Dieckmann heading to DePauw and junior outfielder Caitlyn Warren verbally committed to Wisconsin.
“The girls are pretty excited for this opportunity,” Kedziora said. “After beating Downers Grove North, they have the potential to beat anyone now. They’ve had a taste of success and they want more.”
Downers Grove South and Naperville Central play at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Both Havelka and Nussbaum have crossed the 500-plus win mark in their coaching careers. Earlier this season, the Mustangs beat the Redhawks, 8-2.
The Mustangs, winners of their last 21 of 23 games after starting the season 6-4, won their 13th regional title in Havelka’s 19 years as head coach when they beat Neuqua Valley, 11-7, on their home field. They are 27-6 overall and won the West Suburban Gold Conference title 16 of 19 times under Havelka, including this season. They have two Division I-bound players in senior center fielder and leadoff lady Marissa Mersch (Wisconsin) and catcher Katie LaCivita (Loyola).
“We’ve had a nice season and the girls are excited,” Havelka said. “We’ll have a tough test with Naperville Central. We know they have an elite pitcher (Alyssa Wunderlich) who we will have to battle with for every hit and run. We have our work cut out for us, but the girls are really looking forward to it.”
Naperville Central won its seventh regional title (third in last four years) when it beat No. 6 Lyons, 3-1, at West Aurora. The Redhawks are 24-10 overall and have starting pitcher Wunderlich and junior shortstop Kelsey Gonzalez SIU bound and backup pitcher Kristina Vizza heading to Loyola.
“We have pretty good pitching and pretty good defense against teams who have pretty good hitting, so we’ll see,” Nussbaum said Saturday after the Lyons victory. “That’s not to say that we don’t hit or they don’t pitch, but we are going to play the way we’ve been playing.”