There is no way of knowing how the next few weeks of the postseason will play out, but if any team manages to reach the state finals from the Herald-News coverage area, there’s no questioning that those teams will have earned their place.
Let’s start by considering the gauntlet required of Class 4A teams in the area, particularly those slated to go into battle in the Sandburg Supersectional group.
Most of the local contingent will play in Sectional 7. Contrary to previous seasons, higher seeds will host all of the games in the sectional stage of the tournament. The winner of Sectional 7, which features three of the top five ranked teams in the final Illinois Coaches Association poll and is poised to be by far the most difficult sectional in the state, isn’t the only challenge to reaching state.
The winner of Sectional 7 will do battle with the winner of Sectional 3. The top seed in the Sectional 3 grouping is St. Charles East, the state runner-up in the last season where a postseason was held (2019).
Let’s take a look at each of the postseason groupings, which begin with opening round play on Wednesday in most regionals.
Notes: Lincoln-Way Central is the overwhelming favorite in this regional, as the Knights have pieced together winning streaks of 15 and nine this season and have allowed only 44 runs to cross the plate in 27 contests.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way Central over Sandburg
Field: No. 2 seed Lincoln-Way East (21-4), No. 7 Plainfield South (12-5), No. 10 Plainfield Central (7-13), No. 15 Thornwood
Notes: Lincoln-Way East truly is a dangerous team with the potential to post plenty of runs, making them a dangerous team to deal with in a one-and-done format as a couple of good swings might be all it takes. The Griffins lone losses came at the hands of Lincoln-Way Central (twice), powerhouse Marist (the top ranked team in the ICA poll) and Neuqua Valley.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way Central over Plainfield South
Notes: The Tigers finished third in the last state tournament season in 2019 and appeared poised to make a strong push to try to make a return trip. Joliet West is riding a 20-game winning streak and hasn’t dropped a game since April 23.
Notes: Lockport owns a sub-.500 record heading into the postseason, but the very well might have the edge in Regional D. Just prior to the regional round, Lockport toppled the highest seed team in the group by a 3-0 margin.
Prediction: Lockport over Andrew
Normal (ISU) Supersectional
Field: No. 2 seed Neuqua Valley (23-3), No. 7 Bolingbrook (11-11), No. 10 Oswego (12-13), No. 15 West Aurora (5-18)
Notes: Neuqua Valley is a heavy favorite and is riding a 12-game winning streak coming into the postseason. But it would be wise to not overlook Bolingbrook a team capable of upending a caliber team on the right day for them, as it handed Joliet West one of its two losses this season.
Prediction: Neuqua Valley over Bolingbrook
Field: No. 3 seed Plainfield North (16-6-1), No. 6 Naperville Central, No. 11 Plainfield East (8-19), No. 14 Metea Valley (6-17)
Notes: Plainfield North had a bit of a hiccup in the middle of the season, but the Tigers seem to have righted the ship heading into the postseason as they’ve pieced together a five-game winning streak to end the regular season.
Prediction: Plainfield North over Naperville Central
Field: No. 2 seed Lincoln-Way West (15-8), No. 3 Bradley-Bourbonnais (19-5), No. 6 Minooka (11-13), No. 7 East Moline United
Notes: Lincoln-Way West is the higher seed, but Bradley-Bourbonnais appears to be playing a bit sharper right now. The Boilermakers beat the Warriors in the season capper to the regular season for both teams, and Lincoln-Way West has gone only 3-6 over its past nine contests.
Prediction: Bradley-Bourbonnais over Lincoln-Way West
Notes: Lemont had a 20-game winning streak snapped in a 13-inning loss to Huntley to cap its regular season, but the game was not without an incredible performance by Lemont’s Sage Mardjetko, who struck out 26 in the loss. They likely will overwhelm this field.
Notes: This could be a wild regional as none of the teams have really found their groove as of yet. Morris has had a little more success, but how much did Providence gain from playing a rigorous schedule with a relatively young roster?
Prediction: Morris over Providence
Field: No. 2 seed Joliet Catholic (17-8), No. 3 Rosary (9-10), No. 6 Regina Dominican, No. 7 Disney
Notes: Joliet Catholic’s schedule has placed them in the crosshairs of a lot of good 3A and 4A programs. The transition down to Class 2A for the postseason should make the Angels a threat to make a run against opponents that aren’t as battle tested.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic over Rosary
Field: No. 1 seed Beecher (19-4), No. 4 Rickover Naval, No. 5 Peotone (7-9), No. 7 Christ the King
Notes: Beecher has been a long-standing power in this area of the state and doesn’t look to be challenged severely in this regional. Although Peotone is seeded lower than the CPS entry, Rickover Naval, they should be able to find a way to reach the final.
Notes: After starting the season 0-2, Seneca has rattled off 19 wins over its next 20 games. The Fightin’ Irish are no doubt the favorites, but might find a difficult foe in a regional final with the winner of the Woodland/Coal City matchup.
Notes: Bishop McNamara has a long history of postseason success to lean on and should be in the driver’s seat here. But Wilmington is the wildcard, as its played higher seed Herscher tough in the regular season and is only one of three teams to pin a loss on Seneca.
Prediction: Bishop McNamara over Herscher
Bloomington (IWU) Supersectional
Field: No. 1 seed Dwight (11-6), No. 4 St. Anne, No. 5 Gardner-South Wilmington (6-11), No. 8 Iroquois West (2-16)
Notes: Dwight caught fire after starting the season just 4-6, rattling off seven consecutive wins to close the season. The Trojans averaged nearly 12 runs per game during the winning streak.