ROSEMONT – Julia Larson wasn’t ready for her season to end.
Minutes before St. Charles North’s tilt supersectional game against Whitney Young – who was vying to become the first-ever Chicago Public League representative at the state softball tournament – Larson, the North Stars’ junior third baseman, wrote on their lineup dry-erase board: “Losing isn’t an option.”
The North Stars, evidently, collectively agreed.
Junior ace Ava Goettel threw six innings of three-run softball and Sophia Olman crushed a go-ahead two-run double in as part of a four-run rally in the fifth to lift St. Charles North to a 6-3 victory over Whitney Young on Tuesday.
The North Stars, who lost in last year’s supersectional, are moving on to state for the second time in program history – the first time since the 2011 team took second place in Class 4A.
St. Charles North will face Edwardsville in the state semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Louisville Slugger Complex.
“…We knew coming in this time, it was going to be different,” Larson said. “And we knew we were going down to Peoria to finish our season off.”
Whitney Young senior pitcher Shelby Jacobson was in their way.
Jacobson, a Wisconsin-Madison recruit, entered Tuesday’s game fresh off a 12-inning, 25-strikeout no-hit masterpiece in the the sectional semifinal versus Maine South.
“She’s as good as they get,” Whitney Young coach Mike Hinrichs said of Jacobson. “I mean, I don’t know if I have the words to describe what she can do. The 25-strikeout, 12-inning game, it’s incredible. The craziest part about it is probably that that’s what we expect from her. That’s what she does. She’s a great player. I’m just honored to have had the opportunity to have worked with her for four years.”
Jacobson struck out an additional 13 Tuesday, but the North Stars still found answers off her at the plate.
“We knew her game plan was to stay off the rise ball,” Larson said. “She had a change up, but she didn’t really throw it much this game. The plan was for her to throw as many pitches as possible and that’s what we did this game. She threw, what? 130-something? A crazy amount.”
In the third inning, the North Stars began to do damage. Leigh Vande Hei walked with one out and later stole second. Ashlee Chantos reached on a bunt single and Larson smoked a two-run single to give the North Stars a 2-0 lead.
The Dolphins responded in the fifth inning with a three-run rally. Jacobson helped herself with a two-run double to tie the game and then catcher Audrey Magnus hit a go-ahead RBI single for a sudden 3-2 Whitney Young lead.
But the North Stars (25-4), who rallied in the sectional final against Glenbard North, had one more in them.
Vande Hei and Chantos walked to open the fifth inning. Larson reached on a bunt single to load the bases and Olman crushed a go-ahead two-run double to re-take the lead at 4-3.
“…[Assistant] coach Thijs [Dennison] told us make it a goal to put the ball in play and make [Jacobson] throw more pitches and have quality at-bats,” Olman said. “When we got down, I knew we weren’t going to give up because I know, deep down, we wanted it more. We had been talking about since the beginning of the season, so I knew we were not going to give up easily.”
“Once Leigh got on, then Ashlee, then Julia, I knew I had to step-up big with a full-count,” Olman continued. “I had to step-up because I was due for a hit. I had to get the momentum back in my dugout [and] back on to my team. I finally did that. I finally came through for them and I’m so happy that we’re here right now.”
Megan Bauwens, with Larson at third, then executed a perfect bunt squeeze down the first base line for another run. Auburn Roberson added an RBI sacrifice fly for the insurance run.
Freshman pitcher Paige Murray came in to close in the seventh, and set the Dolphins (26-3) down in order to ensure a trip to Peoria.
“This is a special group,” North Stars coach Tom Poulin said. “They complement each other so well. All season and especially the tournament, they’ve answered when opponents have scored and put pressure on us. That shows you how tough they are and they just continue to believe in each other. I’m so happy for them.”
Goettel, the winning pitcher, brought the North Stars six innings of standout pitching, allowing only five hits and three runs.
“Just my teammates behind me [helped keep my composure,” Goettel said. “They’re all talking in my ear. At third and at short, Auburn and Julia, just constantly talking in my ear keeping me relaxed. I tend to get in my head, so it helps a lot.”
“[Coming in Tuesday], I felt prepared,” Goettel continued. “I knew what we were walking into; especially having the extra day off from, yesterday [due to a rainout] really helped. I was really nervous yesterday. Having that extra day kind of kept my nerves down.”
The North Stars, meanwhile, have unfinished business.
“Yep,” Larson concluded.