Softball: Woodstock North bats do the damage in regional title win over Prairie Ridge

The Woodstock North softball team poses with its freshly won regional championship plaque Friday, May 26, 2023.

CRYSTAL LAKE – The first two-plus innings of Friday’s Class 3A Crystal Lake South Regional softball title game was an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel.

Woodstock North junior JoJo Vermett didn’t allow a run while scattering two hits during her first three innings in the circle. Similarly, Prairie Ridge freshman Reese Mosolino retired eight of the first nine batters she faced.

But the Thunder scored three two-out runs in the bottom of the third thanks to senior catcher Norah Mungle’s two-out, two-RBI double and Vermett’s RBI single.

North then sent 12 batters to the plate in the fourth – scoring seven more times – to coast to a 10-2, regional championship victory.

The win made it back-to-back Class 3A regional crowns for the No. 2-seeded Thunder (14-14), who collected 14 hits Friday.

“Because everyone found ways to impact the outcome of the game, once we got momentum that energy just became contagious and was hard to stop.”

—  Maddie Ferguson, Woodstock North softball

“Our girls were really putting the bat on the ball,” Thunder interim coach Maddie Ferguson said. “And because everyone found ways to impact the outcome of the game, once we got momentum that energy just became contagious and was hard to stop.”

The Thunder advance to the Class 3A Belvidere North Sectional seminfinal at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. They will face the winner of Saturday’s regional title game between Sterling and Belvidere.

Freshman Aly Jordan (2 for 4, RBI) and No. 2 hitter Addison Salazar (2 for 4, RBI) set the table for senior catcher Mungle, who had a pair of doubles and drove in four runs.

“I went into this game knowing that we had beat them before (7-3) earlier in the season,” Mungle said. “So I tried to stay confident and reminded myself there wasn’t any reason we should lose this game.”

Mungle also called all of Vermett’s pitches behind the plate and, despite being shaken off occasionally, seemed to have her pulse on each at-bat.

“Norah did an amazing job and had a real feel for what was working for me out there,” Vermett said. “My drop-curve was working, and I just wanted to either strike hitters out or keep the ball out of the air.”

Vermett struck out seven and walked a pair while inducing nine groundball outs.

Both runs she allowed came in the fifth. Wolves leadoff hitter Ady Kiddy doubled, then scored on a double by Parker Frey. Two batters later, cleanup hitter Autumn Ledgerwood scored Frey with an RBI fielder’s choice.

The Thunder find themselves in familiar territory. In 2022, their season ended in heartbreak with a 5-4 sectional semifinal loss to Belvidere North.

But after Friday’s game, several players, including Vermett, said this year feels a little different.

“We’ve been here before,” Vermett said. “Last year was our time to learn. This next step is an obstacle we can overcome if we don’t lose focus, learn from last season’s experience and continue to put the ball in play.”

Ferguson agreed.

“Not only did we hit the ball today, we also played outstanding defense, " Ferguson said. “Our goal is to be playing our best softball right now, and this is a real confident bunch who seems to be doing just that at just the right time.”

Thunder second baseman Georgia Sedlack prevented a pair of runs in the second inning with a diving stop off the bat of Chloe Lieurance.

“She’s out there getting to grounders and pop-ups most kids don’t even get to,” Ferguson said.

Prairie Ridge (14-14) first-year coach Scott Busam said Mosolino pitched better than the final score showed.

“Absolutely,” Busam said. “A lot of the hits she gave up found holes, and it was just one of those domino-effect situations. I am proud of our players.

“They had a new coach, new ideas, new teammates ... and they showed how much heart and character they truly have all year. Sure, this loss feels horrible right now, but we can’t let one single game define our entire season.

“There’s a lot to look forward to here.”

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