The postseason's feel-good story lacked an appropriate ending.
Being runner-up is certainly nothing of which to be ashamed, however, and that's where Sandburg landed after Warren defeated it 8-4 in the Class 4A softball final Saturday in East Peoria. The Lady Eagles were ahead 3-2 after four innings but were unable to hang onto the lead.
What made Sandburg's playoff run so impressive was that it followed a somewhat average regular season, one in which the Lady Eagles lost 15 times. But after dropping a decision to Lockport on May 23, Sandburg found another gear and peeled off seven straight victories to position itself opposite Warren.
Pitcher Sarah Herold cited the Lady Eagles' 4-3 triumph over Barrington in 13 innings one day after the setback against Lockport as the key element in their revival.
“Barrington, they’re a good team — everybody knows it,” Herold said after Sandburg's supersectional conquest of Naperville Central. “For us to just beat them, I think it really motivated us.
“[It was] like, ‘Listen, guys, we can do this. Yeah, we lost to Lockport or [Lincoln-Way] East, but we beat Barrington.’”
Herold, a postseason fixture for the Lady Eagles (24-16), battled uncharacteristic wildness early on versus Warren as she put two batters aboard in the top of the second inning by hitting them with pitches. That set the table for a two-run double.
Sandburg retaliated in the fourth, using Kristen Zarate's single, a Lady Blue Devils error and Cierra Adamus' squeeze to inch in front by one. The edge proved to be short-lived, though, as Warren struck for a deuce in the fifth, tacked on three more runs in the sixth and finished off its scoring with a seventh-inning homer.
The Lady Eagles' only answer to all that noisemaking was Bri Soltis' sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh.
Sandburg, which was seeking its second state championship in five years, outscored its opponents 37-8 during the seven-game winning streak.
Lincoln-Way East 1
The Lady Eagles saw a familiar face in Friday's semifinal as they clashed with the Lady Griffins for a third time this spring. The two SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue members split a pair of regular-season meetings, with Lincoln-Way East capturing the more recent encounter.
But Sandburg rode Herold's strong performance in the circle to postseason success. Herold, who had been victimized by the Lady Griffins the last time, stopped them on four hits while striking out six and walking only one. Lincoln-Way East's lone marker was unearned.
Herold also contributed three hits of her own to aid the Lady Eagles' offense. Other principal figures were Katie Krzus (3-for-4 with a homer and four RBI) and Karli McLaughlin (RBI single).
Krzus' round-tripper, a two-run blow in the sixth, was her seventh of the year.