WOODSTOCK – Woodstock North came up one win short of the school’s first regional softball championship a year ago. This season, the Thunder are determined to get back to a regional final.
Fifth-seeded North moved a game closer to returning to the title game Monday, defeating fourth-seeded Woodstock, 10-5, at Bates Park in a Class 3A Woodstock North Regional first-round game. The win advances the Thunder (5-21) to the regional semifinals against top-seeded Marengo at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"Just like the last time we played these guys, the hitting and base running was there," Thunder coach Pete Riis said. "Our pitcher was down in [pitch] count and theirs was at 150 pitches when it was all said and done. You throw 150 pitches, you're going to get tired and leave some balls up. We took advantage."
Woodstock North sophomore Paige Schnulle was the offensive star of the game, finishing 3 for 4 with a home run, two doubles and four RBIs. Schnulle's first double hit near the bottom of the fence and scored Laura Nicks and Madison Wirfs in the top of the first, giving the Thunder a quick 3-0 advantage.
After the Streaks scored their first run of the game on an RBI groundout by Sarah Kuespert in the second, Schnulle doubled in Caitlin Wirfs to give the Thunder a 4-1 lead in the top of the third. After a deep fly out in the fifth, Schnulle smacked a solo home run over the fence in left field as part of a four-run seventh inning for North.
All three of Schnulle's extra-base hits against Woodstock’s Rachel Lohmeyer were pulled to left center, but that wasn't by design, Schnulle said.
"I've played against [Lohmeyer] a bunch of times, so I kind of just caught on from my earlier games and at-bats," Schnulle said. "I was just trying to get the ball in play and hope for the best."
The Streaks (5-25) scored single runs in the second, third and fifth innings, but were thrown out on the base paths three times, including once at home plate. Woodstock pushed across two runs in the bottom of the seventh, as Hannah Marsili (3 for 4) led off with a home run and Nicki Lipecki drove in Shea Carzoli on an RBI groundout.
"We didn't show any quit," Woodstock assistant coach Jenn Koeser said. "To score two runs in the seventh still shows us and the coaching staff that we have heart no matter what. We play all the way until the third out in the last inning.”
Sierra Meiners (3 for 4) collected two doubles and two RBIs with a run scored for North, and Madison Wirfs, Caitlin Wirfs and Danielle Chamberlain each had a run and a stolen base.
Carzoli and Kuespert each had two hits and an RBI for Woodstock, and Jessie Karafa finished 2 for 4 with a run and a steal. Lohmeyer struck out seven in the loss.
Dakota Butler picked up the win for North, allowing four earned runs and striking out two in seven innings.
Riis said Marengo will be the Thunders’ toughest test of the season.
“They always play you tough,” Riis said. “Those guys have been state champions. It’s just going to be a matter of us keeping focus.”