The 18U Black Widows won all six games to repeat as state champions at the North American Fastpitch Association Illinois State Tournament, which was hosted by the East Peoria Girls Fastpitch Association, Friday through Sunday, June 23-25 at Eastside Centre in Peoria.
The Black Widows select fastpitch softball organization is based out of Glen Carbon. But this successful 18U team, which has won 15 of 16 games thus far this season, features a couple of key players from Highland High School in 2017 graduate and University of Nebraska Omaha recruit Aubrey Hacke and incoming junior Lily Garbett, as well as HHS head softball coach Greg Exton.
The foursome were fresh off helping lead the Lady Bulldogs to a school-record 29-4 record, which was highlighted by the best start in school history at 22-0, as well as the Mississippi Valley Conference championship and the program’s fourth consecutive regional crown.
“Overall, we had a really great weekend hitting-wise and pitching,” said Hacke, a left-handed hurler who went 17-2 with a 1.33 during her senior campaign at HHS. “Our team has so much depth in the lineup and we have a four-arm pitching staff which makes it hard for other teams to compete with us.”
Garbett, who hit .382 with seven home runs, six doubles, 24 RBIs and 34 runs scored for Highland, plays second base and short for the Black Widows.
“This weekend was amazing,” Garbett said. “I’ve always wanted to play at the highest level of softball I could possibly play at, and winning a state title means I’m about there. We played unbelievably great. The vibe us girls have with each other is amazing on and off the field, and when we bring that vibe to the ball field, we are almost impossible to beat. Our lineup is stacked from the leadoff batter to the ninth batter, and anyone of us could get that clutch winning hit or even a home run; you just never know.”
Garbett added that all of the leadership the coaches give to the team is invaluable and contributes tremendously to the team’s success.
Garbett also said that, as excited as she was to win this state championship, she is equally looking forward to the rest of the season, which ends with the 2017 USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) Fastpitch National Championships, which will be held July 20-23 in McKinney, Frisco and Plano, Texas.
On Friday, the Black Widows opened with a 3-0 win over Illinois Gold and a 10-0 rout of Illinois Gold Jr.
Next, on Saturday, the Black Widows scored a lopsided 11-0 triumph over the Subzero and then doubled up Illinois Impact 8-4.
Finally, on Sunday, the Black Widows blanked Hitting Center 7-0 before going on to cruise past Illinois Gold 10-3 in the state title game.
In addition to Hacke, who pitches and plays in the outfield, and Garbett, who plays second base and shortstop, the Black Widows (15-1), which won the Germantown Tournament June 13-16, also consist of pitcher/outfielder Abby Marlow, pitcher Brittany Roady, pitcher Paige Nash, first baseman Calli Wibbenmeyer, second baseman/shortstop Savannah Fisher, third baseman Sophie Cooper, outfielder, Haley Shewmake, center fielder Mallory Schwegel, outfielder Kiri Evans and catcher Carly Campbell.