EAST PEORIA – Hannah Taylor made a big impression at the Eastside Centre during her two IHSA state finals appearances.
So it seemed only natural that the game-ending groundout Saturday in the Class 3A state championship game bounced to the Glenbard South senior third baseman, whose throw to first base capped off a 1-0 win over Marquette and set off a wild celebration.
Glenbard South became the first big-school team (Class AA in the former two-class system and Class 3A and 4A in the current four-class system) to win back-to-back softball state titles in more than 20 years.
“I’ve been so lucky to be in a program like this,” said Taylor, who had five hits and seven RBIs in her four games in East Peoria the past two seasons. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“To win back to back, it’s amazing. You don’t see that a lot.”
A year ago, Glenbard South was a powerhouse and a state favorite from the opening day of practice. This time around, after the graduation of seven major contributors, there seemingly were more questions than answers in March.
“Last year, if we didn’t win it, well, that was not what we were supposed to do,” said senior pitcher Steph Chitkowski. “This year, we weren’t expected to get to state. No one expected us to get there. We defied the odds.”
Four-year varsity starter Jane Trzaska blasted a triple to score the game-winning run in the eighth inning of the state final.
“Last year, we were a stud team,” she said. “We had pitching, hitting, defense, everything. This year, we didn’t know what we had. But everyone worked hard in the offseason and we had great chemistry.”
Glenbard South has earned five state trophies in the past six years. During that span, the Raiders have posted a record of 182-40.
“It’s obviously something I never dreamed of,” said coach Julie Fonda, who as a player at Glenbard South didn’t make it out of a regional in the two-class system, “and something I don’t take for granted. You never know if we will see [Eastside Centre] again, so I’m just enjoying it now and I’m happy to share it with these amazing kids.”
Nine months from now, Glenbard South will return to the field with a shot at a three-peat. The loss of 215 combined innings of pitching will pose a serious obstacle but at this point, but it’s difficult to count out the Raiders.
“That’s our plan, to try to do it again,” junior Danielle Scarpiniti said. “This year’s team had its own identity and next year, we will have a new identity. But we’d love to come back down next year.”