Softball: Minooka finishes its business with WJOL Tournament title win over Joliet West

Minooka's Taylor Mackin throws a pitch during the WJOL championship game against Joliet West on Thursday, March. 28, 2024, at Joliet.

JOLIET – Last season, Minooka lost the title game of the WJOL Tournament to Lockport by the 10-run rule.

Earlier in the season, the Indians dropped a two-run decision to Lincoln-Way West.

Like Michael Corleone at the end of “The Godfather,” Minooka settled all family business Thursday.

First, Minooka won over Lincoln-Way West in the semifinals, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.

Then, they jumped out to a five-run lead in the top of the first inning and never stopped, beating Joliet West in the championship game 18-1 in four innings.

The Indians’ Taylor Mackin, who was named tournament MVP, led off the game with a double. After a walk to Grace Anderson, Madison Kelly launched a three-run homer to center for a 3-0 lead. Later in the inning, Jaelle Hamilton scored on a wild pitch, and a single by Sofia Dziuba brought home Mayson Carr.

“It was nice to go out and pitch with a big early lead,” said Mackin, who went all four innings, striking out four and allowing five hits. “I knew I didn’t have to pick at the corners. I could just throw good strikes and let my defense play.

“After getting to the title game last year and losing, we really wanted to win this tournament this year. Beating Lincoln-Way West, which beat us earlier in the year, gave us a lot of momentum coming into the title game.”

Joliet West (4-2), which reached the title game for the first time in the tourney’s five years after wins over highly-regarded Lincoln-Way Central and Lockport, got a run back in the bottom of the first. Avery Houlihan led off with a double, went to third on a grounder to second by Shelby Fraser and scored on an RBI single by Paige Pasteris.

Joliet West's Avery Houlihan at bat during the WJOL championship game against Minooka on Thursday, March. 28, 2024, at Joliet.

Minooka (4-1-1) kept the pressure on, scoring twice in the top of the second on a two-run single by Hamilton. The Indians got four more in the top of the third, highlighted by a screaming three-run double by Kelly, giving her six RBIs for the game. It was Hamilton’s turn for a highlight in the seven-run fourth as the sophomore connected for a grand slam to center to cap the rally.

“I was seeing the ball well today,” Kelly said. “I am pretty sure six RBIs is a career high for me in a high school game. I might have done it in travel ball, but not in high school.

“We didn’t want to lose in the championship game again after we lost it last year. We kind of felt like we were underlooked a little bit. Maybe we won’t be now.”

Hamilton played for the Minooka freshman team last year, but knew of the previous season’s loss.

“I know we got beat pretty bad by Lockport last year,” said Hamilton, who also finished with six RBIs. “We didn’t want that to happen again. It feels amazing to win this tournament.

“We felt pretty good about giving Taylor five runs in the first. When we score that many, we know she isn’t going to allow that much to the other team. The home run I knew was going out when I hit it. It felt good.”

Minooka's Jaelle Hamilton at bat during the WJOL championship game against Joliet West on Thursday, March. 28, 2024, at Joliet.

Joliet West loaded the bases in the bottom of the third with one out, but Mackin struck out the next two hitters to escape the jam.

“[Pitcher] Madison Jadron did a great job in the first two games,” West coach Heather Suca said. “She ran out of gas tonight, and Minooka can really hit the ball.

“Avery Houlihan had a great tournament. Hitting two home runs in the first game against one of the top pitchers in the state was something special.”

Minooka coach Mark Brown was more than pleased with his team’s win.

“This is such a big win after being on the other end of a run-rule game last year,” he said. “And, to beat the only team to beat us this year in the semis, it was a very good motivation day for us.

“Joliet West had beaten two really good teams to get here, but our bats were hot from start to finish, up and down the order.”

Making the all-tournament team for Minooka were MVP Mackin, Kelly, Grace Anderson and Hamilton. For West, Houlihan, Fraser and Madison Jadron were all-tournament. The rest of the all-tourney team was Paige Sievert and Molly Finn of Lincoln-Way West, Rheanna Slavicek of Lockport, Lisabella Dimitrijevic of Lincoln-Way Central, Addy Rizzatto of Joliet Catholic Academy, Jadyn Shaw of Coal City and Angelina Cole of Providence Catholic.