Here we go again.
For the third consecutive season, the softball teams from Marquette Academy and Newark will square off in a meaningful postseason contest, this year in the Class 1A Walther Christian Sectional championship at 11 a.m. Saturday at Triton College in River Grove.
Last season, the Norsemen topped the Crusaders 2-1 in the regional final on the way to a fourth-place finish at the state finals. Two seasons ago, Marquette clipped Newark 5-3 in the sectional finals before falling in the supersectional.
“It just seems we end up playing each other [in the postseason] no matter what our separate paths have been,” said Marquette senior pitcher Kaylee Killelea, who has pitched in the past two postseason matchups with the Norsemen. “Newark has a very good team again this season, but I feel if we just play our game, I think we’ll be just fine.
“I know I’m going to have to pitch well, but I also thinK a key we’ll be how well we can hit collectively as a team. We’ve hit the ball pretty well all season, so hopefully we can continue to do that on Saturday.”
“I feel like each team is going to play their best, and it will just come down to which team’s best is a little bit better. I’m really looking forward to playing in this game.”— Lindsey Kaufmann, Marquette Academy centerfielder/pitcher
Newark enters the rematch with a 16-game win streak and 30-1 record, while Marquette is 24-6 and has won eight straight contests.
“I think no matter when, but especially in the postseason, Marquette is always a team that we look forward to competing against,” Newark senior pitcher and second baseman Kaitlyn Schofield said. “The past two years, our games against them have been very exciting, and they are a team you know you have to be at your best against.
“You just have to take every situation as it comes. I’m just really excited to have a chance to be playing one more game.”
Taking away the games the teams have played against each other the past three seasons, including Newark’s 8-6 win over Marquette at the very start of this season, the squads have a combined 132-24-1 mark.
“It is always fun going against Newark,” Marquette senior centerfielder and pitcher Lindsey Kaufmann said. “They always have a really good team and really good pitchers, so it’s a challenge anytime we face them. I think the fact that we played them at the beginning of the year and have played against some of their same players in past seasons has a little impact, but we still have to show up ready to go right from the start.
“I feel like each team is going to play their best, and it will just come down to which team’s best is a little bit better. I’m really looking forward to playing in this game.”
“I think the key for us will be just staying calm and do what we do. I feel if we can do that, the rest will take care of itself.”— Taylor Kruser, Newark senior shortstop/pitcher
Newark enters the sectional championship averaging 10.8 runs a game while allowing only 1.4, its only loss being to Class 3A Morris 4-1. Marquette has scored an average of 9.7 runs and given up just 2.6. The Crusaders have outscored their opponents 70-8 during their current win streak.
“Even though our schools aren’t in the same conference during the regular season, I feel like playing Marquette is kind of a rivalry for us,” Newark senior shortstop Taylor Kruser said. “They have had some really good softball teams in the past years, and it’s always a fun game to play in.
“Like the last few games, we as seniors know this could be our last game in high school. But I think as a player, you just have to make sure you do everything you can to not let that happen. I think the key for us will be just staying calm and do what we do. I feel if we can do that, the rest will take care of itself.”
The winner of Saturday’s championship will advance to Monday’s 11 a.m. supersectional at Inspiration Field on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University against the winner of the Tuscola Sectional between LeRoy and Heyworth.