NORMAL – Allie Timm’s glitter under her eyes must give her the ability to see the future.
Timm and Minooka’s softball team had ample reason this spring to feel dim about their season. The Indians had a 10-day COVID-19 quarantine in May, just when they were heating up. Minooka entered the postseason with a No. 6 sub-sectional seed, hardly portending a deep playoff run.
So, surprised that Minooka is going to state? Not Timm, its senior pitcher.
“I called it,” she said. “From the beginning, tryouts, I really believed in this team.”
Her prediction became reality Monday.
Timm struck out nine, escaping two huge jams unscathed, and squeezed in Minooka’s first run. The Indians capitalized on Yorkville pitcher Madi Reeves’ uncharacteristic wildness, and went on to a 5-1 win in the Class 4A Normal Supersectional at Marian Kneer Softball Stadium.
Minooka (16-13), advancing to state for the second time in program history, plays Lincoln-Way Central at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Peoria.
“Speechless. It’s such a surreal moment,” Timm said. “We really thought [the COVID-19 quarantine) would take a toll on our season, and affect how we were playing. We did a lot of team bonding and got back at it.”
Minooka softball coach Mark Brown is no stranger to postseason surprises.
In 2013, his program’s only other state appearance, the Indians advanced to state as a No. 9 sectional seed and won the Class 4A title.
“I can’t explain it. I just think it’s because we have such a good bond,” said Minooka sophomore Anna McClimon, who singled, walked, scored a run and drove in a run. “I didn’t expect to meet such a great group of girls this season.”
Minooka and Yorkville (24-5) split two games during the Southwest Prairie Conference season, both winning on walk-offs.
The Indians never trailed in the rubber game, but it was hardly a walk in the park.
Yorkville out-hit Minooka 7-5, with a number of hard-hit Foxes’ balls going for outs. Timm emerged unscored upon in the first inning despite allowing four baserunners. In the fifth, with Minooka clinging to a 2-1 lead, Yorkville loaded the bases with two outs on two singles and a walk – but Timm got a strikeout on the seventh pitch of an at bat to get out of it.
“In and out of trouble, confident with her defense behind her,” Brown said. “That shows her composure. She is never afraid to pitch with runners on or big situations. She seems to pitch better then, to be honest.”
Reeves, meanwhile, was a big reason why Yorkville was making its first supersectional appearance, with three shutouts in the Foxes’ first four playoff games, a perfect game into the seventh inning of the sectional final.
But her explosive rise ball had a bit too much jump Monday. Reeves (20-4) struck out 12 over six innings, but issued three walks and threw five wild pitches.
“There were a couple balls that went up, that were a little higher than normal,” Yorkville coach Jory Regnier said. “When that ball is moving that way anyway and it takes that extra lift it can become a wild pitch.”
The Foxes had a golden opportunity to jump out early go by the wayside.
Mackenzie Melzer doubled on the first pitch of the game, but was thrown out trying to steal third. Kaitlyn Roberts and Ellie Alvarez followed with singles, but Roberts was forced at second on Alvarez’s single to center and Timm got a strikeout after Avery Nehring walked.
“It’s a lot easier when you can score first,” said Alvarez, who had two singles and reached base three times. “Not being able to score hurt us.”
Minooka didn’t let its chances go for naught. McClimon and Chloe Kohnhorst walked to start the bottom of the first, moved up on a wild pitch and McClimon scored on Timm’s squeeze bunt. In the second, after Kaylee King walked and advanced on a wild pitch, McClimon’s two-out high pop fly in short right field dropped to score King and make it 2-0.
Yorkville got a run back in the third, Alvarez’s two-out ground ball under the shortstop’s glove scoring Taylor Warren, but Minooka made it 3-1 in the fifth as Sofia Dziuba scored on a two-out wild pitch. Two more runs came in in the sixth inning with the help of two Yorkville errors.
“Luckily, this was the third time we saw [Reeves],” Brown said. “The first time she held us to one run and we were chasing that rise. The second time we had a better approach, made her get it down, and we scored six runs. We knew if we could at least put the ball in play that they were susceptible to mistakes.”
Warren, one of just three Yorkville senior starters, had two singles and reached base three times for the Foxes, who this spring won the SPC West title and the program’s first-ever sectional title.
“We’re so proud of the seniors for laying the groundwork,” Regnier said. “The future is bright. We’ll be back.”