EAST PEORIA — The Nashville Hornettes are standing in the way of St. Joseph-Ogden's quest for perfection.
The Hornettes (33-4) will play the top-ranked Spartans (40-0) at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the EastSide Centre in East Peoria in the semifinals of the Class 2A State Softball Tournament.
"We don't feel any pressure,'' Nashville coach Dempsey Witte said. "We're extremely young, and we're just going up to give it our best shot and get some experience at state. We know they're a great team, and we'll just try to slug it out with them and do the best we can.''
The Spartans have scored 494 runs, five short of the state record of 499 runs scored by Mattoon in 2008.
"We do have a real good hitting team No. 1 through 9, up and down the lineup,'' St. Joseph-Ogden coach Randy Wolken said. "We have a lot of bunters and slappers, too. A lot of speed.''
The Spartans are averaging 12.5 runs per game. They've scored in double digits in 27 of their 40 games.
The Spartans have 10 players hitting over .400, including four players who are hitting over .500.
Senior center fielder Stephanie Canfield is hitting a team-leading .663 with five homers and 40 RBIs. She's headed to the University of Arkansas.
"She's extremely fast, can do it all,'' Wolken said of Canfield.
Senior pitcher Elizabeth Everingham, who has been signed by St. Louis University as an infielder, is hitting .598 with 35 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs and 76 RBIs.
On the mound, Everingham has 31-0 record with an 1.02 ERA. She's struck out 232 batters and walked 36 in 172 innings.
"She's a good athlete,'' Wolken said. "She's a great hitter. She's quick and has a lot of movement (as a pitcher). She's one of the better pitchers in our area obviously.''
Senior catcher Mickaela Fleming is hitting .496 with nine homers and 73 RBIs, while senior right fielder Abbey McElwee is hitting .558 with 78 runs scored.
Wolken is coaching in his 33rd season with the Spartans. He has an 858-207 career record and he'll be taking a team to state for the seventh time.
Wolken's 2006 squad won the Class A state championship by clipping Casey 1-0 in the title game.
"This team is a better hitting team, and better defensively,'' Wolken said in comparing his current squad to the 2006 champions.
The Spartans are one win away from tying the state record for wins, which is held by three teams, including Nashville's 2001 state championship squad.
There have been eight teams that have gone undefeated in state softball history, but none have gone 42-0.
Two teams -- Moline in 2006 and Coal City in 2010 -- have gone 40-0.
"I don't hate it, I love it,'' Wolken said of being unbeaten. "It's a lot of recognition, but the girls don't talk about it. It doesn't bother them. Somebody said, 'You better lose a game before the regionals start.' I don't want to do that. I want to keep going if we can.
"The girls take a lot of pride about it, but they don't talk about it and it doesn't put a lot of extra pressure them. I don't think it's that big of a deal.''
The Hornettes have no seniors in their lineup. Mollie Borowiak, the lone senior on the team, is injured and won't play at the state tournament.
"It's tough for Mollie,'' Witte said. "She wants to be out there, and she was a big part of our success all season. Not getting to play up at the state tournament because of an injury is frustrating for her, but I've been extremely proud of the way she's handled herself. She's been the biggest cheerleader there in the dugout.''
Junior Shaye Harre is the Hornettes' top hitter. The Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit is hitting .544 with 26 doubles, six homers and 57 RBIs.
Junior center fielder and leadoff hitter Nicole Deering is hitting .459 with 54 runs scored.
"She's one of the better leadoff hitters that we've had here at Nashville High School,'' Witte said of Deering. "She can do so much. She has more power than people think, and she has incredible speed. I think she has only three strikeouts all year. One was against (Du Quoin's Alexis) Kohrs and one was against (Alton Marquette's) Alexis Silkwood. I think she is a very underrated player. She is what kind of makes our offense go.''
Sophomore shortstop Kiley Pelker has both speed and power for the Hornettes. She's hitting .397 with 17 doubles, six triple and three homers. She has 43 runs scored and 38 RBIs.
The Hornettes will go with freshman Maci Ingram on the mound. Ingram has an 18-2 record with an 0.63 ERA.
Witte said the Hornettes need to continue playing sound defense.
"There is a good chance they are going to score, but we just have to prevent the big inning,'' Witte said. "We want to play good catch and not give any runs away. We want to make them earn everything they get.''
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.