Class 1A softball: Newark rolls past Grant Park, into sectional final

Norsemen, behind a solid overall game from senior star Kodi Rizzo, advances to play Serena at 3 p.m. Friday

Kodi Rizzo of Newark High School connects for a deep drive to left field resulting in an inside the park homerun during the Class 1A Sectional Semifinal game at Woodland High School on May 22, 2024.

RURAL STREATOR – Newark senior Kodi Rizzo proved what anyone who follows area softball already knows – she can hit and she can pitch – in the first three innings of Wednesday afternoon’s Class 1A Woodland Sectional semifinal against Grant Park.

In the top of the third, Rizzo blasted a three-run home run to left – part of her three-hit, six RBI game – to get the Norsemen on the scoreboard and ignite the offense. Then in the bottom half of the frame, the hard-throwing right-hander finished up her three-inning, nine-strikeout appearance in the circle by retiring the Dragons’ side in order via strikeout.

But what many may not realize is Rizzo is pretty speedy, as well, and she showed it in the fourth by turning a line drive down the left field line into a two-run inside-the-park-home run in Newark’s 17-0 victory in five innings over Grant Park (13-15).

“I’m not sure that would work out to well for me,” Rizzo said with a laugh when asked if she’d now be up for a race with volleyball teammate and Newark’s ace track and field athlete Kiara Wesseh. “My dad is a track and cross country coach, so I’m running all the time. I wouldn’t say I’m super fast, but I don’t feel like I’m slow, either. I just know that’s probably as fast as I can run.”

“I’m not sure if there was a certain time or play where we all kind of relaxed but having Sadie Pottinger (walk) and Adelaide Johnson (infield single) get on to start the third and then Kodi hitting the home run helped, I think.”

—  Danica Peshia, Newark senior catcher

Newark (25-4) advances to Friday’s 3 p.m. championship game against rival Serena. The Norsemen and Huskers were co-champions of Little Ten Conference and split their two meetings in the regular season.

The Norsemen were held scoreless in the opening two innings against Grant Park starter Cheyenne Hayes, but Rizzo’s long ball and later in the third a two-run single by Kate Bromeland made it 5-0.

“To be honest, I’m nervous before any game I play and even more so in the postseason,” Rizzo said. “I mean any game could be my last one in high school. It normally goes away either after my first at-bat or after throwing my first couple of pitches. That’s kind of what happen today for all of us.”

The Norsemen added five more runs in the fourth on Rizzo’s inside-the-parker, a pair of Dragons errors and an RBI single by senior catcher Danica Peshia to make it 10-0

“There were nerves, no doubt,” Peshia said of the early innings. “I’m not sure if there was a certain time or play where we all kind of relaxed, but having Sadie Pottinger [walk] and Adelaide Johnson [infield single] get on to start the third and then Kodi hitting the home run helped, I think. I feel like we are all very confident in our abilities, so the main thing is for us to stay positive and root for each other as hard as we can.”

Newark then plated seven runs in the fifth, starting with Dottie Wood doubling in Rizzo, who had just recorded her sixth RBI of the day with a single. Ryan Williams (3 for 4) then followed with a two-run inside-the-park-home run to right center, and after three runs scored on errors, Bromeland drove in her third run of the game with an opposite-field double to left center.

“I think overall we played a pretty good game,” Peshia said. “We hit the ball pretty good, Kodi and Dottie pitched good, we ran the bases good, and we played good defense. All of that added up to a win and now we get to play another game. I’m happy about that.”

Rizzo allowed only an infield single in her three innings in the circle, while Wood came on to give up a pair of infield base hits and struck out three. The pair did not allow a ball to be hit to the outfield.

“I feel like the girls were pumped up to play today, but maybe a little too pumped up,” Newark coach Jon Wood said. “I could see a little nervousness in our at-bats in the first two innings, but that’s to be expected and that to me shows they have fire and are competitors.

“Our saying is the difference between good and great is consistency. I feel like once Kodi helped get us the lead we collectively played a solid, consistent game.”

Newark's Kate Bromeland singles to drive in two runs against Grant Park during the Class 1A Sectional Semifinal game at Woodland High School on May 22, 2024.
Have a Question about this article?