DOWNERS GROVE - Even with a young team that had its ups and down early in the season, it was business as usual for Downers Grove South's softball team by the end of the year.
The Mustangs won the West Suburban Gold conference title for the 18th time in the last 21 years, stamping their championship with a 9-1 win over Willowbrook May 15 in a game suspended from May 2. Caroline Hedgcock picked up the win in the pitcher's circle.
"It really was very rewarding because we have a fairly young team," South coach Ron Havelka said. "We have one senior that starts (Emma Thibault) and two freshman that start, so it was great to win because if you had looked at the beginning of the season Willowbrook had a lot of people back and we lost eight seniors."
The win in the suspended game meant that the defensive lapses that led to a 6-4 defeat in the regularly scheduled game against Willowbrook, also May 15, had no bearing on the WSG race. The Mustangs went 11-1 in conference while Willowbrook was second with a 9-3 mark.
On Saturday, South split games with Joliet West and Minooka to finish the regular season at 18-10. Caitlyn Daly went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs while Hedgcock added two hits and an RBI and pitched a complete game as South topped Joliet West 7-2. A home run in the bottom of the 10th inning led to a 5-3 Minooka win.
The Mustangs will face Naperville North at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in a semifinal of the Batavia regional. The game was originally scheduled for Wednesday but was postponed due to weather. They lost to the Huskies early in the season, but playing Joliet West and Minooka will have them battle-tested for the postseason.
"I was glad with how we competed Saturday," Havelka said. "We played two good teams. It was a great tune-up. You have to face pressure situations and good teams otherwise you're not going to be ready. The more pressure situations you're in throughout the year, the better you're going to play at tournament time because that's the pressure of a one-and-done situation."