Despite dealing with the cold weather that has been one of the biggest stories of the spring season, several area softball teams have once again already demonstrated that they have what it takes to be able to make a nice run through the state playoffs.
This past week, the IHSA announced assignments for the postseason and the good news for most area squads is that many of those in Class 4A will be be in regionals that feed into the Joliet West Sectional. A total of 12 of the 19 squads, including nearly all of the favorites, are local schools. Regionals will be at Lockport, Plainfield East, Romeoville and Thornwood.
Through Friday’s play, coach Jeff Tarala’s Lincoln-Way Central squad has won eight-straight and is off to an 8-1 start, which includes a victory over Lincoln-Way East. The Griffins also are 8-1 after capturing a 2-1 victory over Lockport, which fell to 6-2.
Also in the sectional from the local area are (with records through Friday) Plainfield South (10-3), Plainfield East (8-3), Minooka (6-2), Romeoville (5-4), Joliet West (4-4), Lincoln-Way West (3-5), Plainfield Central (4-6), Bolingbrook and Joliet Central.
The winner of the Joliet West Sectional will meet the Pekin Sectional winner, which consists of downstate schools, at the Illinois State University Super-Sectional in Normal.
A year ago, coach Elizabeth Pawlicki’s Griffins beat coach Marissa Chovanec’s Porters in the Minooka sectional finals and then beat Belleville East to advance to state. After beating Marist in the semifinals, they lost, 1-0, to Oak Park and River Forest for the championship. Joliet West and Lincoln-Way Central also advanced to the semifinals of the same sectional.
Lincoln-Way East has won four straight sectional titles and qualified for state three times in the past four years, also finishing second in 2015 while placing fourth in 2014. Lockport last went to state in 2005, and its last trophy came in 2004, when it won the state championship. Lincoln-Way Central’s only trip to state was in 2008, when it also captured a state title.
Plainfield North (9-0) is also in Class 4A, but it will compete in the Oswego Sectional and will compete in its own regional. Other regionals in that sectional, which covers much of the western suburbs, are at Downers Grove South, East Aurora and Oswego East. The Oswego and Hinsdale South sectional champs will square off in a to-be-announced super-sectional.
In Class 3A, Joliet Catholic Academy (7-1), Providence Catholic (5-4), Morris (9-6) and Coal City will all be in one sub-sectional of the Ottawa Sectional, with the other taking up schools in the southeast suburbs. Both JCA and Providence will host regional tournaments while others in the field are Hillcrest, LaSalle-Peru, Ottawa, Plano, Sandwich and Tinley Park. The winners of the Ottawa and Washington sectionals will meet in the Illinois Wesleyan University Super-Sectional in Bloomington.
Also in Class 3A, Lemont (7-0) will host its own sectional, which features schools primarily from Chicago mixed in with a few south suburban squads. The regionals feeding into that sectional are at Agricultural Science, Evergreen Park, Lindblom and Nazareth Academy. The Lemont Sectional winner plays the champion at Glenbard South in one of the super-sectional games at Rosemont Stadium.
Class 2A teams will compete in one sub-sectional of the Beecher Sectional. Local teams in that field include Peotone, Reed-Custer, Seneca and Wilmington. Reed-Custer and Seneca will both host regional tournaments.
And in Class 1A, Gardner-South Wilmington and Dwight are in one sub-sectional of the Dwight Sectional. Dwight and Grant Park will host regionals for a field that also includes Armstrong, Donovan, Iroquois West, St. Anne, Salt Fork, Schlarman and Tr-Point.
The IHSA has announced that sectional seeds will be posted May 8 with the pairings to be released shortly after that. So area squads have about three more weeks to sort out who will draw the most respect in their sectionals as they pursue the highest-possible seeds.
With so many quality softball teams in the area this season, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the area will be well-represented at the IHSA finals at East Peoria’s EastSide Centre, and particularly on the final weekend, which will be held June 8 and June 9.
The key questions that seem to be emerging are can some other team break through and halt Lincoln-Way East’s recent dominance in Class 4A and will moving to a new sectional pay off for Plainfield North. In addition, can an area team win a Class 3A sectional title?