SHABBONA — When asked about the end of last season, St. Bede senior Abbie May wrinkled her nose in a disgusted face.
“The loss to Rockridge in the super-sectional was a tough game,” said May, the Lady Bruins ace pitcher. “We worked really hard this year in practice to get back there. We haven’t really gotten to be outside that much, but we’ve done what we can with it. We worked extra hard on things we need to execute like bunting. We showed that against Marquette by bunting a few times and getting key hits.
“We’re gaining confidence offensively and we’ll try to carry that over to the defense.”
The St. Bede softball won its second straight sectional championship with a 7-1 victory over Marquette in the Class 1A Indian Creek Sectional on Thursday.
With the sectional plaque being prepared for the SBA trophy case, the super-sectional is looking the Lady Bruins in the eyes once again.
This time, May wants to be able to smile and remember her and her teammates celebrating achieving a higher ring on the playoff bracket ladder.
“I just have to hit my spots and execute,” said May. “I don’t want to try to do too much. We’ll get a scouting report and try to do what we can with that. I just have to stay calm in the circle and hit my spots.
“The defense has definitely stepped up in the postseason. The girls are more confident and it’s been good for us. The season isn’t over. We still have to keep going.”
May hopes to hit her spots against either Villa Grove or Salt Fork, which play for a sectional title today, in the Class 1A Illinois Wesleyan Super-Sectional at 11 a.m. Monday.
In the last three games, May has hit her spots as she has struck out 17, 17 and 12 hitters for 46 Ks.
With May’s focus in the circle hitting an all-time high and the Lady Bruins hitting five home runs in the last two games, St. Bede coach Rob Ruppert is making sure his team is prepared for its next challenge.
“We are always working on stuff from one game to the next,” said Ruppert, who doesn’t know much about Villa Grove or Salt Fork but will do some scouting. “We work on our bunting because we tell them the deeper you get in the postseason, sometimes you just have to make things happen.
“We work everyday on bunting. We work everyday on our defense. We hit and have our pitchers throw. It’s a continuous practice all year long.”
In Thursday’s sectional championship against Marquette, the Lady Bruins (19-9) didn’t commit an error defensively, took advantage of the Lady Crusaders’ three errors and scored runs in bunches during later innings.
“Coming in we were really anxious because we knew (Marquette) didn’t give up any runs in the postseason, but we knew we couldn’t have a negative mind going into it,” junior second baseman Ellyn Nowakowski said. “We came in and just played our game. We had a good outcome.
“We knew Abbie May has had a heck of a season, so we all had to stand behind her. We did a really good job tonight.”
With the game scoreless in the fourth inning, Gianna Elias and Nowakowski scored when May belted a shot to left field that was misplayed by Marquette’s left fielder. On the error, Elias and Nowakowski scored to give SBA a 2-0 lead.
The fifth inning saw a conversation with the three umpires and SBA coach Rob Ruppert followed by a meeting with Marquette coach David Tkach and the umpires.
On a ground ball hit by Lady Bruins catcher Charleigh Holmes, the initial call was she was out at first. After Ruppert objected, the officials overturned the call and Holmes returned to first.
The call reversal infuriated Tkach, who came out to first base and argued about the call until he was asked to return to the dugout.
“I told other coaches and the umpires earlier, ‘It will be a pitching dual and the team that makes the least errors will probably prevail,’” Tkach said. “That’s exactly what happened. We gave St. Bede, which is a good team, more confidence because they had more outs in an inning than they should have had by our errors or on questionable calls.”
Holmes was the second out of the inning as she was picked off at third on a steal attempt, but the Lady Bruins had just begun their fifth-inning offensive surge.
Senior shortstop Maggie Sons was walked and Claire Morrow reached on an error. Sons stole third and was brought in on Marquette’s second miscue of the fifth inning when Elias put the ball in play. SBA loaded the bases when Hayley Short was hit by a pitch.
During Nowakowski’s at bat, Morrow scored on a past ball.
Three more runs scored as Nowakowski hit a three-run home run over the center-field fence, bringing in Elias, Short and herself to give SBA a 7-0 lead over Marquette (22-6).
“I came up to the plate and I knew I had a role to do,” Nowakowski said. “I kept a positive mind and gave it a hit. It just happened to go out.”
Marquette scored a run in the seventh to get on the scoreboard, but the Lady Crusaders couldn’t spark a comeback.
“It feels real good. Marquette gave us a heck of a game,” Ruppert said. “It was a pretty tight game for the first four innings. We were able to scratch a few runs out and a big home run from Ellyn carried us.
“It’s a good feeling. We’ve been working hard all year. This is what we’re working for.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.