Softball

High school softball: Crystal Lake South powers into postseason

Gators bring 29-2 record, No. 1 seed into regional

Crystal Lake South softball coach Scott Busam sees plenty of similarities between his team now and the one that shared the Fox Valley Conference championship with Jacobs in 2007.

"It couldn't have happened to a better group of people," Busam said after the Gators won their first outright conference championship in 33 years with back-to-back victories against Dundee-Crown and Hampshire on May 11.

"As talented as they are, they're also the least selfish and most dedicated and caring teammates I've probably ever been around. The 2007 team was loved the same way. They each play for each other and pick each other up. That's the best part of this whole thing. They deserve this. They earned it."

The Gators, who already own the most wins in program history with 29, will try to add to their special season when the Classes 3A and 4A postseason starts Monday. South will compete in 3A for the first time after being in 4A since 2008.

South (29-2) is the top seed in the Burlington Central Regional and plays eighth-seeded St. Edward in a semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Gators, who average 11.8 runs game, will be the overwhelming favorite to win their first regional title since 2008.

The Gators, ranked second behind Pontiac in the Illinois Softball Coaches Association Class 3A poll, have high hopes for a long postseason run. South has lost six of its past seven playoff openers.

"I feel like we can do some damage this postseason," senior second baseman Maddie Bush said. "Everyone is super excited and super focused. This season has been a lot of fun, but we don't really think about having that record [of 29-2]. We have a plan to win each game, and it's been working out for us. I just hope we can keep it going all postseason."

South's statement win this season came April 16, when the Gators scored four runs in the sixth inning against Huntley, which had won the previous three FVC titles, and held on for a 4-3 victory.

The Gators won their first 19 games of the season before finally losing to Jacobs, 6-2, on April 25. Huntley handed South its second loss, 2-1, last week in a pitchers' duel between Illinois-Chicago commit Christina Toniolo and Huntley sophomore Briana Bower, the area's strikeout leader.

Busam feels like he put too much pressure on the team to win last year, as South finished 19-17 and graduated two senior starters. This year, the Gators are making sure they have plenty of fun.

"I put a lot of pressure on them because I thought we should be winning and playing better," Busam said. "This year, we took an entirely different approach. We need to have fun playing softball, and they are having tons of fun. It really comes down to playing well in close games. We're trying not to put too much stock in one single game."

Emily Sulikowski, a four-year varsity starter and one of seven seniors on the roster, said the Gators already were thinking big before the season started. Now, South will look to carry over its regular-season dominance into the postseason.

With their next victory, the Gators will have 30 wins for the first time in program history.

"We've have been together for a long time, and to see something come out of our hard work is really special," Sulikowski said. "It's surreal, and it kind of feels like we did something big here. We have great team chemistry, and that confidence in each other is what drives us."

CLASS 3A SCHEDULE

Wauconda Sectional

Tuesday, May 28

Game 1: Winner Antioch Regional vs. Winner Marengo Regional, 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 29

Game 2: Winner St. Viator Regional vs. Winner Vernon Hills Regional, 4:30 p.m.

Friday, May 31

Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 4:30 p.m.

St. Viator Regional

Monday, May 20

Game 1: (18) Chicago Northside (14) St. Viator, 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 21

Game 2: (2) Richmond-Burton vs. Winner Game 1, 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 22

Game 3: (7) Harvard vs. (10) Marian Central, 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 25

Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 11 a.m.

Vernon Hills Regional

Monday, May 20

Game 1: (19) Chicago Mather at (15) Wauconda, 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 21

Game 2: (3) Grayslake Central vs. Winner Game 1, 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 22

Game 3: (6) Vernon Hills vs. (11) Prairie Ridge, 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 25

Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 11 a.m.

Marengo Regional

Monday, May 20

Game 1: (20) Chicago Senn at (13) Woodstock, 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 21

Game 2: (4) Marengo vs. Winner Game 1, 4:3 p.m.

Wednesday, May 22

Game 3: (5) Woodstock North vs. (12) Lakes, 4:30 p.m.

Friday, May 24

Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 4:30 p.m.

Antioch Regional

Monday, May 20

Game 1: (17) CICS/Northtown (16) Chicago Resurrection, 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 21

Game 2: (1) Antioch vs. Winner Game 1, 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 22

Game 3: (8) Ridgewood vs. (9) Johnsburg, 4:30 p.m.

Friday, May 24

Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 4:30 p.m.

Genoa-Kingston Sectional

Tuesday, May 28

Game 1: Winner Stillman Valley Regional vs. Winner Kaneland Regional, 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 29

Game 2: Winner Burlington Central Regional vs. Winner Rock Falls Regional, 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 1

Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 11 a.m.

Burlington Central Regional

Tuesday, May 21

Game 1: (1) Crystal Lake (South) vs. (8) St. Edward, 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 22

Game 2: (3) Burlington Central vs. (7) Elmwood Park, 4:30 p.m.

Friday, May 24

Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 4:30 p.m.

CLASS 4A

Hampshire Sectional

Tuesday, May 28

Game 1: Winner Belvidere North Regional vs. Winner Cary-Grove Regional, 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 29

Game 2: Winner Barrington Regional vs. Winner Harlem Regional, 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 1

Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 11 a.m.

Barrington Regional

Tuesday, May 21

Game 1: (1) Barrington vs. (8) Carpentersville (Dundee-Crown), 4:30 p.m.

Game 2: (4) Crystal Lake Central vs. (6) Lake Zurich, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 25

Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 11 a.m.

Cary-Grove Regional

Monday, May 20

Game 1: (9) Round Lakeat (7) Grant, 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 21

Game 2: (2) Jacobs vs. Winner Game 1, 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 23

Game 3: (3) McHenry vs. (5) Cary-Grove, 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 25

Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 11 a.m.

Harlem Regional

Monday, May 20

Game 1: (9) Rockford Guilford at (8) Rockford Auburn, 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 21

Game 2: (2) Huntley vs. Winner Game 1, 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 22

Game 3: (3) Harlem vs. (7) Rockford East, 4:30 p.m.

Friday, May 24

Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 4:30 p.m.

Belvidere North Regional

Monday, May 20

Game 1: (10) Rockford Jefferson at (6) DeKalb, 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 21

Game 2: (1) Hononegah vs. Winner Game 1, 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 22

Game 3: (4) Hampshire vs. (5) Belvidere North, 4:30 p.m.

Friday, May 24

Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 4:30 p.m.

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