For the seniors on Marian Central Catholic High School’s varsity softball team, the final inning of the team’s 11-3 May 17 victory over Benet brought them back to the spring of 2014.
During that season, then freshmen varsity players Emily Miller, Ryan Klinger, Madeline Peters and Jacqueline Chmiel played first, second, shortstop and third, respectively, for the Hurricanes (10-12 overall; 4-8 East Suburban Catholic Conference).
And unbeknownst to any of the four last week, Marian’s coaching staff devised a plan to put the players in those same positions if the team pulled ahead with a lead during their final home game at Marian.
“We wanted to get ahead so we could put them all back in their original positions that they started in with me as freshmen,” said head coach Erin Widmayer.
“It made our day,” said Miller. “It was a very special moment.”
With a 3-3 tie at the top of the sixth inning and the Redwings coming off a strong at bat, it didn’t look good. But then Chmiel stepped up to the plate and started what would be an eight-run effort to secure the win.
Chmiel’s loft to left field got her safely to first. On the Hurricane’s next hit, Chmiel scrambled to third. And with base-running intensity that makes a difference in high-pressure game situations, she slid into home plate to start the scoring run after a grounder to the pitcher tossed the first base runner out.
“We’ve had too many innings where we’ve left runners on base, and there’s no way I was going to let it be one of those,” said Chmiel. “Once we get the energy up, our team does a great job staying loud. Plays like that help.”
As do plays like Miller’s double a few at bats later. With the bases loaded and two outs on the board, Miller landed a pop fly safely in centerfield. The blast was enough to clear the bases and keep the Hurricane’s ahead through the final out of the game.
“I was very proud of them for not giving up and for making stuff happen,” said Widmayer.
The seniors, especially, knew that the intensity necessary to pull away with the win was not by accident.
“Especially after Monday [9-1 win over Benet], we needed to make sure we didn’t come in too cocky or underestimate anything,” said Miller. “We struggled in the fourth inning and in the fifth inning we made sure we came back … . We didn’t give in and didn’t give up.”
Widmayer hopes the Hurricanes can keep the momentum going for the IHSA Class 3A Woodstock North Regional. The Hurricanes, seeded at No. 5, will play Sycamore at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 24. The winner of the regional will play in the Sterling Sectional.