1A softball: Led by Glade sisters, Serena outbattles wind, Dwight in sectional semi

Huskers await winner of Wednesday’s Newark-Grant Park semifinal

Serena's Brynley Glade (13) flexes toward her team's dugout in celebration of her RBI double against Dwight during the Class 1A sectional semifinal May 21, 2024, at Woodland School in rural Streator.

RURAL STREATOR – Woodland’s ball diamonds aren’t nicknamed “the Windy Confines” for nothing.

The Serena Huskers finished with one fewer hit than their Class 1A Woodland Sectional semifinal opponent, Dwight, on Tuesday, but managed the difficult conditions brought on by 40-mph winds howling toward the third base line a little better than the Trojans.

The result? A 5-0 Serena victory and a trip to the sectional championship game against the winner of Wednesday’s Newark-Grant Park semifinal.

“Today we knew we needed to get on top of the ball,” said Huskers No. 9 hitter Brynley Glade, who provided Serena not only both of its hits but all three of the game’s RBIs. “The wind was blowing like crazy, and most of my hits were blowing foul, but we’ve been practicing [staying on top of the ball] a lot after facing [Dwight on April 10, a 4-2 Serena victory].

“It seemed like today I just managed to hit it through the gaps, and hearing my teammates in the dugout yelling for me, that really got my confidence up.”

Brynley Glade

Brynley Glade delivered an RBI during each of her three at-bats.

In the second inning after Lanee Cole drew a leadoff walk and scored on a wild pitch, Glade hit a seeing-eye grounder up the middle to score her sister and winning pitcher Maddie Glade.

In the fourth, the No. 9 hitter hit a soft liner to the left side that hit the skirt of the outfield and rolled past the drawn-in-because-of the-wind Trojans outfield to score Cassie Walsh and make it 3-0. She then scored herself when RayElle Brennan’s bunt was thrown into right field, one of two Dwight errors on the day compared with none for Serena (21-7).

Then in the sixth, after Cali Edwards walked, stole second and was bunted to third by Walsh, Brynley Glade delivered an RBI groundout to close the game’s scoring. Her sister then retook the circle and closed the game, finishing her seven-inning, three-hit, uncharacteristic six-walk shutout.

Not that Dwight (14-15) didn’t have chances. The Trojans stranded nine runners on the day – five of them in scoring position – and were shut out despite a two-hit day from No. 7 hitter Madi Ely and No. 2 hitter Megan Livingston reaching safely twice by drawing walks.

Dwight's Madi Ely connects for a double against Serena during the Class 1A sectional semifinal game May 21, 2024, in rural Streator.

“We just didn’t put the ball in play when we needed to,” Trojans coach Dezi Leonard said. “We were uppercutting [the ball] a little bit, and this wind played a factor, took some of our big hitters’ hits that should have been fair and blew them foul, or one that looked like it was going to center field that ended up being a flyout to the pitcher.

“I think it did have an effect on the game, but [Serena] played through it, too, and did some of the things, like small-ball, that we weren’t able to.”

Dwight starter Ely (4 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 7 K) and reliever Taylor Heath (2 IP, 1 ER, 0 H, 2 BB, 3 K) pitched well in the wind-swept conditions, but not quite as well in high-impact situations as Maddie Glade.

“I was really proud of our defense,” Serena coach Kelly Baker said. “[Dwight] had the threat of runners on multiple times, and we were able to shut it down. I felt like we had the timely hits ... and Maddie did a great job, even if a little uncharacteristic with the amount of walks she had, but they were tough conditions to pitch in.

“I feel like we’re playing our best ball right now, and obviously it’s the time to get hot. We’re just playing with confidence. I was worried we were going to have some jitters out there, but I’m very proud of how they were able to handle themselves today.”

The sectional championship game was, as of press time Tuesday, still scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Friday, but a change to either Thursday or Saturday loomed likely as of the end of Tuesday’s semifinal because of school-related conflicts for multiple teams in the field.

Serena's Maddie Glade throws a pitch with a Dwight High School player in scoring position during the Class 1A sectional semifinal at Woodland School on May 21, 2024.
J.T. Pedelty

J.T. Pedelty

J.T. is a graduate of Streator High School, Illinois Valley Community College and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale who is some 25 years into an award-winning sports journalism career.