MINOOKA — Of the eight teams that will play in the 3A and 4A softball state final tournaments this weekend, 21-8 Minooka has the second-lowest winning percentage.
The Indians’ semifinal opponent is the only team that has lost more frequently.
York brings a 23-12 record into its game against the Indians, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Eastside Centre in East Peoria. It lost its first four games, was 5-8 in late April and had a three-game losing streak late in the season. York won its regular-season finale and has since won every step of the way — at its own regional, the Resurrection Sectional and one of two Rosemont Super-Sectionals, outscoring its opponents 34-10 in the playoffs.
“I know they have (12) losses, so in some ways they’re similar to us,” Minooka coach Mark Brown said at practice Wednesday morning. “They hit a rough patch or two along the way, but they got hot late and they’ve played well to get this far.”
The teams had two common opponents this season. Minooka was a 2-0 winner over Glenbard South, which split a doubleheader with York, losing 5-4 and winning 4-0. The Indians lost a 5-4 game to Sandburg, which York defeated 8-1 in the super-sectional round on Monday.
Sophomore Brooke Bandy is the primary pitcher for the Dukes. She had a 15-7 record and a 1.98 ERA in 134 2/3 innings this season, striking out 129 and walking 39. Offensively, the Dukes are led by junior outfielder Angela Scalzitti, whose .509 batting average and 47 runs lead the team, and freshman third baseman Abby Solem, a .403 hitter who had team highs in doubles with 11, home runs with five and RBI with 35.
Minooka counters with the senior pitching tandem of Jackie Lilek, who had a 13-3 record,a 1.73 ERA and a 78-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 93 innings, and Sara Novak, who went 6-4 with a 3.26 ERA and a 120-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 81 2/3 innings. Senior catcher Kelsey Smith led the Indians’ regular with a .438 average, and Novak hit .422 with four doubles, a team-best six homers, 24 RBI and 28 runs.
“I know they have a lefty pitcher. It sounds like they’re a good hitting team,” Brown said of the Dukes. “For us, we just have to keep doing what we’re doing. We have to keep hitting and play great defense. The team that plays the best defense should be the one that advances, and we think that can be us.”
Another similarity between the teams is their state tournament histories, or lack thereof. York has qualified once, losing in the Class AA quarterfinals in 2003. Minooka will play at state for the first time on Friday.
One difference between the teams is their experience. Minooka has eight seniors, seven of whom had committed to play college softball prior to the start of the season. York has just two seniors to go with six underclassmen on its roster.
“I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet,” Brown said, when asked about the demeanor of his team. “Between going to a state banquet and staying in a hotel and all the other stuff, there will be a lot going on, but we’re not going down there for a vacation. We still have a job to do. We’re there to win a state championship.”
Barrington will face St. Charles East in Friday’s other 4A semifinal, with the third-place and championship games to follow on Saturday.
“We don’t know a whole lot,” Novak said when asked what the Indians expected to see at state after their super-sectional win over Normal West Monday. “We have to worry about doing what we did to get us here. If we keep doing that, we feel like we can beat anyone. It’s not really about those other teams, it’s about us.”