By Chuck Fieldman
Clarendon Hills Little League claimed its first-ever State championships this summer, as both the 11 and under softball team and the 10 and under baseball team finished their seasons on top.
The girls went 3-1 in the State tournament in Brookfield to clinch the championship, culminating on July 23 with an 18-7 win over Brookfield, the same team that had defeated Clarendon Hills a day earlier, 9-8.
The boys won their State championship by beating Western Springs, 1-0, Aug. 3 in La Grange Park.
Clarendon Hills started its Little League Baseball program in 1953 and added softball in 2017.
Clarendon Hills softball coach Rob Goeckel said he expected
a tough challenge from the host team in the State tournament.
“Brookfield finished third at State last year, and we knew they were going to be our toughest competition,” he said. “We played Brookfield three times during the travel season, and all the games were very close and competitive.”
In addition to games at the State tournament against Brookfield, Clarendon Hills played and defeated Moline twice, 23-4 on July 22 and 13-1 a day later.
Goeckel said the Clarendon Hills team played a challenging schedule of 13 games in 17 days, leading up to winning the State championship.
“The girls sharpened their skills by playing non-Little League games against advanced 11 and under and 12 and under travel teams,” he said. That included five games in a Bloomingdale tournament the week before the State championship.
Clarendon Hills placed fifth in the 10 and under division of the State tournament a year ago, and Goeckel said the coaches were aware of the talent on the roster this summer because they had either coached or played against all of the girls during the regular Little League season.
“We weren’t sure how they were all going to come together as a team, but after the first few practices and non-tournament games, the pieces started to fall into place,” he said. “Roles on the teams were solidified with steady positions in the field and a defined batting order.”
Goeckel said a major strength of the team was being well-rounded.
“We had several power hitters who could clear the bases with big hits, solid play in the infield and pitchers who induced a lot of weak contact from the competition,” he said. “The strongest attribute of the team was the camaraderie and close friendship between the girls.”
Goeckel said top performances in the State tournament came from pitchers Charlotte Goeckel, Emmy Havens and Gia Sikorsky; top hitters Abby Przyzycki, Olivia McEwen and Anna Makstenieks; and top fielders Emme Campos at shortstop, second baseman Ellie Brankin, catcher Grayson Contreras and third baseman Despina Patos.
In the 10 and under baseball category, Clarendon Hills was a cumulative 10-0 in the three levels of the tournament, District, Sub-State, and State.
The 4-0 record in the double-elimination State competition in La Grange Park was achieved after qualifying for that round by winning the championship of Sub-State play with a 3-0 record, also in La Grange Park. A 3-0 record for district play in Westmont started off the impressive run by Clarendon Hills.
“After we won Districts, I knew we had a team capable of competing deep into the State tournament,” said head coach Brian Herold. “They showed great resilience and played really well together.”
Herold said no holes in the batting order, good pitching depth and strong defense, all were factors in the team’s success.
“We felt that our pitching and defense would keep us close in games and that over six innings, our bats would come up with a timely hit,” he said.
Herold said each boy contributed to a win throughout the District, Sub-State, and State tournaments.
“I am proud that they will always be able to look back at this experience and know that they committed themselves to each other and had a special journey,” he said.
In the State championship win over Western Springs, pitchers Matthew Kalish and Brody Herold combined to allow only one hit and one walk.
Clarendon Hills scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning after Liam Harrigan led off with a single, and Luca Striltschuck followed with a bunt single. Christian Gernot then came through with a base hit up the middle to drive in the winning run.
Earlier victories in the State tournament came against Ridge Beverly on Aug. 1, 15-0; Western Springs on July 30, 8-3; and Rock Falls All-Stars on July 29, 10-0.
Clarendon Hills won the Sub-State competition with wins July 22-23 over Western Springs, Bartlett, and Burbank.
Herold said that throughout the run of 10 wins, the top pitchers were Matthew Kalish, Brody Herold, and Luke Schaller, and the top hitters were Kalish, Herold, and Jack O’Malley. ■