The Dupo Tigers will be making just their second appearance the IHSA State Softball Tournament and their first since 2009.
But when it comes to scouting the other teams in the Final Four field, head coach Greg Pennock didn’t waste a lot of time.
“Oh, there’s some video through a chain-link fence and some stats, but I didn’t spend a lot of time with it,” said the seventh-year coach. “It’s not like I’m going to change my lineup or anything. It’s gotten us this far.”
The Tigers (20-5) open the 2A tournament play at EastSide Centre in East Peoria with the first semifinal against Elgin St. Edward (25-8) Friday at 3 p.m. The winner will advance to the championship game Saturday at 5:30 p.m. The loser will play for third place at 3 p.m.
Pennock said all he expects from the competition is that it will be good.
“It’s hard to go out and be perfect, so you’ve got to catch a break,” he said. “In softball, when the talent is good and the competition is close, any given game on any given day can turn on a ball that’s two inches fair or foul.
“My concern is what our team does and less about what the other teams can do. We have to bring our best game, grind it out and hope to breaks work out in our favor, that’s all.”
My concern is what our team does and less about what the other teams can do. We have to bring our best game, grind it out and hope to breaks work out in our favor, that's all.
Greg Pennock, Dupo head softball coach
The Tigers believe they had one of the hardest Class 2A schedules in the state since it includes the Class 4A likes of Belleville West, Edwardsville, and O’Fallon, among others. They’ve also seen some of the region’s best pitching, both during the school season and in summer select leagues.
Pennock says such experience is all the preparation his hitters need against St. Edwards senior Lindsay Zdroik.
The right-handed Valparaiso commit is 16-3 this season with a 0.79 earned run average. Zdroik has struck out 236 batters in 133 innings.
“She looks like a one-woman wrecking crew,” Pennock said. “Somewhere in their life, our girls have seen something comparable.”
Carterville also brings a hard-throwing Avery English (18-1, 0.56 ERA, 180 strikeouts in 126 innings) to the tournament.
The key for the Tigers, says junior Megan Brown, is the same as always — put the ball in play. Brown is the staple of a deep Dupo lineup despite a comparatively down year to her sophomore season. She’s hitting .364, but has struck out just five times in her 80 trips to the plate.
“Before the super-sectional game, (Pennock) told us if we put the ball in play 16 times and make the other team make 16 outs, we’d win. That’s what he preaches to us basically every game,” she said. “You’ve got to make the other team make plays and you do that by cutting down your strikeouts.”
As a team, the Tigers strike out an average of once every 10 plate appearances. That means, on average, they put the ball in play 18.9 times per seven innings.
Dupo will match St. Edwards’ lineup with Jessica Stansch, a 5-foot-5 pitcher who gets the most out of her ability. Her speed won’t overpower good hitters, Pennock said, but she has good movement and is “relentless” in hitting her locations.
Before the super-sectional game, (Pennock) told us if we put the ball in play 16 times and make the other team make 16 outs, we'd win. That's what he preaches to us basically every game. You've got to make the other team make plays and you do that by cutting down your strikeouts.
Megan Brown, Dupo junior outfielder
Stansch got her chance last season when Brown started to experience chronic shoulder pain. This year, she’s 18-5 with a 2.18 ERA. She also has struck out 115 batters in 135 innings.
“Her strength is keeping the ball and down and keeping the ball on the ground,” Pennock said. “Hopefully that’s what she does because on our good days we’ll catch most of them.
“Against Gillespie (in the super-sectional) we played error free and turned two double plays. If we can have that kind of game, we give Jess a real good chance.”
Brown, who is committed to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, has been used on occasion in the pitcher’s circle, too. She has yet to allow an earned run in the 18 innings she’s pitched.
“I feel like once you reach this level everybody is going to be as good as you,” Brown said. “It will come down to who plays better. If it’s us, that’s good, and if it’s not, it probably means we didn’t give it our best effort. A big part is walking off the field and knowing you gave 100 percent.”
Head Coach: Greg Pennock (7 years, 118-75)
Pitching: Jessica Stansch (135 IP, 18-5, 2.18 ERA, 115 K, 40 BB); Megan Brown (18 IP, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 25 K, 5 BB)
Offense: Skylure Barlow (.413, 2 HR, 20 RBI); Megan Brown (.364, 4 HR, 21 RBI); Rachael Donald (.468, 2 HR, 16 2B, 33 RBI); Taylor Esmon (.514, 2 HR, 22 RBI); Amber Mobbs (.453, 24 runs).
Last Year: Lost to Pleasant Plains, 2-0, in sectional semifinal
IHSA History: Placed fourth in Class 1A in 2009
Conference: So. Illinois River-to-River
Head Coach: Will Capie (1st year, 30-3)
Pitching: Avery English (126 IP, 18-1, 0.56 ERA, 180 K, 13 BB); Baleigh Koester (100 IP, 12-2, 1.12 ERA, 109 K, 24 BB).
Offense: Megan Barrett (.339, 4 3B, HR, 23 RBI); Avery English (.337, 3 HR, 16 RBI); Sydney Monje (.301, 4 HR, 17 RBI); Montana Taylor (.432, 3 3B, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 31 runs)
Last Year: Lost to Nashville, 2-1, in sectional final
IHSA History: Class 2A State Champion 2008; DNP in 1A 2007; DNP in 1A 2006.
Elgin (St. Edward) (25-8)
Conference: Metro Suburban
Head Coach: Paul Netzel (1st year, 25-8)
Pitching: Lindsay Zdroik (133 IP, 16-3, .79 ERA, 236 K, 22 BB); Emily Statpay (55 IP, 7-2, 4.68 ERA)
Offense: Devyn Ernst (.305, HR, 19 RBI); Jessy Kramp (.313, 3 HR, 28 RBI); Rachel Lesh (.309, 2 HR, 9 RBI); Emily Stapay (.350, 10 2B, HR, 17 RBI); Allie Stratman (.400, 12 2B, 4 HR, 27 RBI).
Last Year: Lost to Glen Ellyn (Glenbard South), 10-4, in Class 3A Regional Final
IHSA History: This is the Wave's first appearance at state
Taylor Ridge (Rockridge) (33-5)
Conference: Three Rivers
Head Coach: John Nelson (3 years, 84-28)
Pitching: Tayah Hayes (133 IP, 20-1, 2.47 ERA, 70 K, 15 BB); Maddie Bayne (76 IP, 9-4, 2.20 ERA, 43 K, 26 BB)
Offense: Kelsey Garrett (.340, 19 RBI, 33 runs); Tayah Hayes (.411, 6 HR, 30 RBI); Erin Lingle (.413, 21 2B, 2 3B, HR, 51 RBI); Ashley Minyard (.439, 10 2B, 2 3B, 35 RBI); Daria Parchert (.409, 12 2B, 4 HR, 27 RBI); Jenna Swanson (.396, 12 2B, 4 HR, 31 RBI); Amelia Thomas (.480, 14 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR, 45 RBI)
Last Year: Lost to Brimfield (Coop), 3-0, in super-sectional
IHSA History: Placed third in 1A in 2007; DNP in 1A in 2006; 1A State Champion 2005; DNP in 1A 2004; DNP in 1A 1996.