Close Menu Element

Mobile Search Element

Main Container Header

Upper Container

Lower Container

jths logo white

By Randy Whalen

On many levels, it was a good season for the Joliet West softball team.

The Tigers finished with a winning record and won the East Division of the Southwest Prairie Conference. 

But, despite having a higher seed and an early lead, they saw their season end with an 11-7 loss to Homewood-Flossmoor on Wednesday, May 24 in the second semifinal of the Class 4A Joliet West Regional. 

The Vikings (11-13), who are the No. 9 seed in the Lockport Township Sectional, will attempt to capture their first regional title since 2016 this Friday at 4:30 PM. But that will be a tall task as they will have to get by fellow SouthWest Suburban Conference foe, Lincoln-Way East, which defeated Rich Township 19-2 on Tuesday, May 23 in the opening semifinal. The Griffins (25-4) will be bidding for their ninth straight regional title. 

Joliet West (17-13) also lost to H-F in the regional semifinal last season. That was by a score of 11-1 at H-F. But this year the Tigers were the No. 7 and higher seed in the sectional. They were also playing at home. But they committed four errors, which led to seven unearned runs.

"Credit to H-F," Joliet West coach Heather Suca said. "We're young all around and have had some inconsistent play. We just have to know how to push through it."

After sophomore pitcher Madison Jadron had worked out of allowing a leadoff walk to not score in the top of the inning, it looked like the Tigers had made a big push in the bottom of the first. 

Sophomore catcher Hope Hughes (2-for-5, 2 2B, R, RBI) led off with a double to right center. Speedy Shelby Fraser, a junior center fielder who had three infield singles, beat out a bunt for a base hit and Hughes would score the first run on an errant throw. Junior shortstop, Avery Houlihan followed with an RBI single, and junior first baseman Brooke Schwall smoked a full-count pitch for her 14th home run of the season, a line shot to left center. 

At that point, it was 4-0 and there were still no outs in the first.

"I was a little more pumped than usual on that one," Schwall said of her smack. "I only had four homers last year. But this season, I just lifted weights more and had a better mindset."

That obviously worked for her. But Schwall lamented the team not continuing to score in bunches after the first inning.

"We didn't stop fighting but we should have been more aggressive," she said. "We should have stepped on their throats, kept them down, and not let them have wiggle room. It was disheartening.

"But next year, we will have a lot of seniors, a lot of leaders. This season, I will just remember the connection. I thought we always had fun as a team."

H-F pitcher, Becky Urbaniak, however, settled in after the uprising and went the distance for the win. The junior, who was 2-for-4 at the plate, allowed 13 hits, issued two walks, had five strikeouts, and stranded nine Tiger runners.

She also got huge run support as the Vikings put up six runs, three of them unearned, in the top of the second. Senior first baseman Morgan Tate led off the inning by reaching on an error and scored on a wild pitch. Junior designated player Na' Relle Cotner (4-for-4, 2R, 5 RBI) started her hot day at the plate by bashing a two-run single to left center. Senior third baseman Tori Frangella also had a two-run double to deep right field and senior right fielder Savannah Roberts (2-for-4) ripped an RBI single to center to make it 6-4.   

The score remained that was until the fifth. The first two Viking batters reached on errors, and one out later, Cotner crushed a three-run home run to left-center to make it 9-4. Joliet West made it 9-5 on a two-out RBI double by Hughes in the sixth. 

Both teams scored a pair of runs in the seventh. The Tigers plated two with two outs on RBI singles by Jadron and freshman right fielder Ella Featherston. But a force at third ended the game. 

"Offensively we fought, we came back," Suca said. Our offense has been our strong suit. Our defense has been up and down. 

"The potential for us is there. We just have to learn from this and take it into next year. We had a losing record last year and we improved this season. Everyone contributed in some way and that's why we won the conference."

Junior third baseman Paige Pasteris had a single and senior left fielder Mya Millsaps ended her high school with three hits, a pair of infield singles, including one in the seventh, and a bloop double in the fifth. She, along with Karley Talkie, were the only two seniors on the team. 

"After the first inning I thought we had it in the bag," Millsaps admitted. "But I think the team can take this and use it for next year and be really good. There will be six seniors next year.

"I still wouldn't trade this team for the world. We always had great energy and we always just brought that excitement, that energy. I will never forget my time with this team."

  • Central
  • District
  • West