PLAINFIELD – Anytime Plainfield North and Plainfield East meet on the softball field, you know it’s going to be passionate.
Throw in both teams being ranked in the top 12 of the state, it being Senior Day at North, a Southwest Prairie Conference title on the line and the wind howling out to left field, and it became all the more interesting.
North (26-5, 15-2) trotted out the Hett-and-Thompson show Wednesday afternoon and clinched the SPC title with a 3-1 victory over East.
In the bottom of the first inning, Tigers senior Carolyn Hett hit what appeared to be a routine short fly ball to left field. But as everyone watched, it carried over the fence to give North a quick 1-0 lead.
“There was no way in the world when I hit that ball did I ever think it was a home run,” Hett said. “I thought it was just a short pop-up and I was shocked that it went out.”
Greta Thompson, North’s junior pitcher, shut down the Bengals, giving up an unearned run in the sixth, allowing only four hits and striking out 10.
“I knew with the way the wind was blowing that I had to keep the ball away and hit my spots,” Thompson said. “It’s so amazing to win conference and what a better way than to do it than against our biggest rival. Since my freshman year, every time we play East it’s intense.”
In the sixth, with the Tigers up 2-0 thanks to an RBI double by Thompson in the third, East (23-9, 13-4) got a single from Kayley Perkins and Hannah Kalnicky reached on an error. Bengals pitcher Bianca Vozenilek got the RBI to make it 2-1 heading to the bottom of the inning.
Vozenilek pitch well for the Bengals, giving up the three runs on five hits, while striking out eight.
Hett led off the bottom of the sixth for the Tigers, and she smoked the first pitch over the left-center field fence. That one didn’t need any help from the wind as it gave her two long balls in the game and provided needed insurance.
“I can’t put into words what winning conference means right now,” Hett said. “We are truly a team. We have done this together and our pitching this year has been excellent. We know we will be in every game and now with the tournament coming up, we will take it one game at a time. No looking past any team along the way.”
Thompson was pretty good at the plate as well as in the circle. She was 3 for 3 with two doubles and the RBI.
“This is a great team with a lot of talent,” first-year North coach Kelly Ash said. “They compete every inning and never give up no matter what the situation.
“Today was tough conditions with the wind and the dust blowing in everyone’s face, and I told them just be patient and play our game. Greta has been pitching great, but so has Abbey Kruzel and our entire staff. But it was Greta’s turn today and she was dominant.
“Winning conference is special, but this was a mini-goal along the way. The ultimate is to be in Peoria and play for the state title. That has been our main goal all season.”
East coach Chris Morris was disappointed in the outcome but also is looking forward to the tournament.
“Today, North out-executed us and they did it all game,” Morris said. “When they needed a hit, a pitch or a play in the field, they did it. It’s the small things that make a difference. To win close games, you have to make those plays.
“I feel real confident with this team going forward. The biggest part of our season starts next week and we have the team to do well.”