Lady Eagles fall short in supersectional
Having won 14 of its last 16 softball games — including a thrilling victory over defending Class 4A champion Marist that secured a sectional title — Sandburg was riding a huge wave of momentum heading into last Monday’s Class 4A Rosemont Supersectional contest against York.
Unfortunately, for the Lady Eagles, their quest to reach the state semifinals was denied by the Lady Dukes, who bagged an 8-1 victory. York snapped a 1-all tie in the fourth inning and never looked back.
Down 1-0, Sandburg responded with a Candice Koch triple to left and, after Meg McPolin was hit by a pitch, Ellie Forkin’s sacrifice fly to right. Lady Dukes southpaw Brooke Bandy was in control after that, however, as she limited the Lady Eagles to five hits while striking out seven.
Sarah Herold, who collected two of Sandburg’s hits, fanned nine in a losing effort. The Lady Eagles finished the season at 24-15.
“We took a team that was never ranked and not a favorite, and advanced to the supersectional,” Sandburg coach Jim Fabianski said. “It just goes to show that when girls come together, it’s not always about the talent. It has to do with your emotional capability and ability to play together as a team.
“We had that big win over Marist, and to come back this time against York — that would have been incredible. Both teams were good, but York was just better on this night.”
Fabianski said he had no doubt his athletes came ready to play in a high-energy atmosphere. He was puzzled, however, by the type of field the two Rosemont-based supersectional games were played on, especially in comparison to those parks that served as hosts to earlier-round playoff contests.
“It was a nice field, but I think it was totally unnecessary that the teams would play on an all-turf field,” Fabianski said. “It’s unfair for either team of either game to have to play on turf when 100 percent of our games are played on a normal field.
“While it didn’t affect our game, [except] maybe a little mentally, it had an impact on the previous game, where five or six balls were mishandled. I don’t think it allowed people to play and keep the game as fair as it could have been. All the teams had to deal with it, but none should have been put in that spot.”
Also disheartening to Fabianski was the strike zone the home-plate umpire was enforcing.
“He called every ball on the outside corner a strike,” Fabianski said “We had five hits, and four of them came from our three left-handed hitters. I’m a little skeptical of that, and also how well Minooka did against a team we beat in the regular season. They only struck out twice.”
But Fabianski couldn’t deny the Lady Dukes’ effectiveness at the plate against Herold.
“Yeah, York did a great job,” he said. “They got 10 hits and the key hits when they needed them, [but] I still don’t think York was any better than us. [With] the talent I saw down there [at the state tournament], I felt we could have been a state champion as much as any team down there.
“When you get down to the last eight teams, there’s very little that separates them. Unfortunately, somebody has to win and somebody has to lose.”
The starts of both supersectional games in Rosemont were delayed because of a major accident on the expressway, so Sandburg players were forced to watch the entire Minooka-Normal Community West contest after enduring a hour-long, stop-and-go ride along back roads to avoid the interstate gridlock.
“I’m from the north side of Chicago, so I know some alternate ways,” Fabianski said. “We never got on the expressway, and we arrived about the same time as York did.
“Timing-wise, however, it wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want my girls to have to watch the entire first game. The girls have to sit there and think about things after a lot of stop-and-go traffic on the way there, [and] it’s just not the way I would have mapped out my season ending.”
Regardless of the result, Fabianksi couldn’t say enough positive things about his club, which undoubtedly etched its name alongside those of great Sandburg softball teams of the past.
“The girls enjoyed being with each other, and it paid off for us,” Fabianski said. “I asked what their legacy will be. I told them that they’re one of the teams that made it to the Elite Eight, [so] their team is going up on our school board.
“They beat a lot of teams that were good teams and that were competing for a state championship: Naperville Central, Lincoln-Way East and [eventual state champion] Minooka.”