St. Francis wins regional title in rout
As a favorite, the last thing you want to do is give your opponent reason to believe it can pull off the upset.
St. Francis team made sure from the very beginning of Saturday's Class 3A softball regional title game that it planned to leave with the regional plaque in hand and not give Chicago Bulls College Prep reason to think otherwise. The Spartans scored nine times in the bottom of the first and got two strong innings of pitching from both Carlee Clark and Shelby Winkelman on their way to a 16-1 victory shortened to four innings.
The win advances the Spartans (32-4) to Tuesday's sectional semifinal at St. Francis against Glenbard South, a 6-1 winner Saturday against Wheaton Academy.
"I think that it's really good that we can get a start like that and then just keep going from there," said Spartans center fielder Kristina Sherwin, who drove home the game's first run with an RBI double and then added a bunt single to give her two hits in the first inning. "It really helps us when we get runs in the first inning and shut them down quick with our defense."
Clark (14-1) allowed a one-out single to the Bulls' Miranda Garza in the top of the first, but that was the only runner she allowed while facing seven hitters in two innings and striking out four.
The Spartans jumped on the visitors from Chicago with nine runs on seven hits in the bottom of the first, with all nine hitters in the lineup reaching safely and scoring before the 14-batter half inning ended. The inning was aided by two walks and three errors, and Caroline Caesar delivered the biggest blow with a 2-run triple down the right-field line.
Caesar finished the day 3-for-4 with 3 RBI including a home run to right field in the bottom of the fourth that ended the game via the new 15-run, 4-inning state series rule.
"I was just looking for a pitch to drive and it was right there," the St. Francis catcher said of her sixth home run this spring. "I hit one in that exact same spot a couple weeks ago. This (win) feels good. I feel like it was a good start for our run toward state."
The Spartans' Shelby Winkelman pitched the third and fourth innings and struck out five without allowing a hit, But the 11-4 Bulls, making their first appearance ever in a regional final, did get on the board when Jysell Garcia walked with two outs in the fourth, stole second and third and came around on a throwing error.
"They know what they have to do," said Spartans coach Ralph Remus, whose team keeps resetting the school record for wins in a season this year. "I'm glad the other team had a lot of spirit today. They played hard. I think it was good experience for both teams even though they were on the short end."