For all of the success that athletes from Troy Middle School have enjoyed over the years, there was one sport that had missed out on going to state and top-four finishes, and that was softball.
The Trojans softball team entered the Illinois Elementary School Association playoffs in search of the school’s first regional championship.
A year ago, former coach Mark Peter, who now is the school’s assistant principal, brought up some young players who helped their team reach the regional finals, and that certainly has benefited new coach Kelly Papesh, a Minooka graduate, who also was
Peter’s assistant coach.
The payoff is that the 11-3 Trojans are headed to Champion Fields in Normal for the IESA Class AA quarterfinals, where they’ll face Tolono Unity (13-3) at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
A win and they will play either Edwardsville Lincoln (17-2) or Bloomington Corpus Christi (18-5) in Saturday’s semifinals. Summit Hill (24-2) plays Barrington Station (12-0) at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, and East Peoria Central
(17-2) faces Charleston (18-1) in the other quarterfinals matchup.
In order to advance, the Trojans won two one-run games in the regionals and had an 11-6 win in nine innings in the sectional. Eighth-graders on the team are Cate Alstott, Jamie Daniels, Madison Millsaps and Mya Millsaps. Seventh-grade team members are Rylee Boyd, Avery Houlihan, Ava Nurczyk, Madison Patrick, Samantha Patrick, Brooke Schwall and Megan Slavicek, and the lone sixth-grader on the team is Jessica Cole.
“Mark did really good things to build a strong program, and it’s nice that a team was finally able to finish,” Papesh said. “Our team is primarily made up of seventh-graders, and what was nice is that a portion of them were on the team last year as sixth-graders, and that’s made a difference. They’re bigger and stronger and have learned the game. They made it to the regional championship last year, and with eight-graders stepping up, they’re a solid group.
“Honestly, no one even focused on making history. They were like, ‘We were in this spot last year,’ so they just wanted to go further. Now it’s really sinking in to them that they’re the group that’s doing something significant for the program. The experience of the regional and having all of those emotions helped carry them to the sectional title. They’re doing something that no one has done, so I want them to enjoy this whole experience.”