The Illinois High School Association Class 4A state softball state championship between Marist and Lincoln-Way East was scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
But at 5:30 p.m. the RedHawks players, coaches and fans were back in Chicago in the Marist cafeteria eating cake after listening to speeches about how great they were.
The weather forecast in East Peoria forced the IHSA officials to schedule the game before noon and the Redhawks found morning glory with a 1-0 victory over the Griffins at the EastSide Center to claim its second softball title in four years. Pitcher Zariya Gonzalez notched the shutout, tripled in the second inning and scored on Vanessa Villasenor’s groundout.
Senior outfielder Brooke Wilson had four catches on defense and played on both championship teams. She was a freshman on the 2012-winning team and became the first Marist female athlete to win two state titles.
“I still feel like I’m on a softball high,” she said at the celebration. “The entire experience has been surreal.’’
Wilson is an Orland Park resident who grew up in the Midway area and is headed to Loyola to play softball next season. She compared the two championships. In 2012, the team was 15-15 and ran the table. This year’s team finished 36-4-2 with a 28-game winning streak.
“Our first year, it was definitely unexpected,” she said. “We got hot in the postseason, which really helped us. This year, we were driven to achieve that goal of winning state and winning conference. We did both of those.’’
It was also a state title for former player Colleen Biebel, who is in her first year as the RedHawks coach.
“You brought glory and honor to us and glory and honor to God, who gave you that talent,” Marist president Brother Hank Hammer told the players at the celebration. “You should reflect on that – thanking God for your talent, sense of perseverance and sense of commitment.’’
He also said that either in August or September, the players will be honored with a banner unveiling and ring ceremony.
Principal Larry Tucker and athletic director Bob Lim also gave speeches praising the team. Lim was choked up and had to put the microphone down before talking about the first team to win a state title under his watch. The Redhawks have seven state titles in school history.
“It’s nice to win one of the trophies,’’ he said. “And I’m not going to say it’s not important to win first place, because it is. But just seeing the hard work and resiliency and love to make it down state was great.’’
For more details on the postseason, see the sports section.