McHenry softball coach John DiFrancesca refers to his team’s incredible season as the “Disney tour.”
And for at least one more game, the Warriors’ magical ride will continue.
McHenry has been the area’s surprise team this year, surpassing even their own expectations to put together one of their best seasons in recent history. McHenry shared the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division title with Cary-Grove and then won the Class 4A Warren Regional championship last weekend.
The 6-2 victory over Warren in the title game gave McHenry its first regional championship since 2006. The Warriors move on to play Carmel in the Cary-Grove Sectional semifinals Wednesday.
“In David and Goliath, we are definitely David,” DiFrancesca said. “We are picking up the little pebbles and looking at these giants and they don’t know what to expect.”
McHenry has come a long way since the beginning of the season. The Warriors had to replace a majority of their starters from last year and adapt to DiFrancesca’s new laid-back style of coaching in his first season.
But they quickly put together a well-rounded team that features solid starting pitching backed by a dangerous lineup of hitters.
“Even in tryouts, DiFrancesca was saying that we had a great team., “senior catcher Mikaela Mitsch said. “We were a little skeptical, but as we kept going on and we kept seeing our record increasing and the numbers we were putting up …our confidence is rising.”
Even as the No. 3 seed in the Warren Regional, McHenry was able to get by two good teams in Zion-Benton and Warren last weekend.
McHenry holds a 13-game winning streak going into the sectional semis and the Warriors haven’t lost since a wild 15-12 defeat to Prairie Ridge on April 19.
“We just keep feeding off each other’s energy,” Mitsch said. “Everybody is so excited. It’s a lot of fun.”
Joining McHenry in the Cary-Grove Sectional is Jacobs, another team that has been boosted by a strong second half.
The Golden Eagles won their third consecutive regional championship with a 1-0 upset over C-G in the Huntley Regional championship Saturday.
Senior pitcher Katie Kirker, who didn’t play in the past two postseasons because of a knee injury, tossed a complete-game one-hitter for the win.
“She was really confident in our practices and really wanted to make sure she ended her high school career the way she wanted to,” Jacobs coach Jeremy Bauer said. “It’s pretty hard to put in words how special that was for her and our team.”
Jacobs will face Hononegah in the other sectional semifinal Thursday at C-G.
McKayla Lein got the win for the Golden Eagles in their 4-0 victory over Crystal Lake South in the regional semifinals. Depending on how Kirker is feeling by Thursday, Lein might be called on again.
“We really hope that [Kirker] is 100 percent; we feel that she is,” Bauer said. “Katie gives us a great shot, but we’re not afraid of McKayla pitching; either way we’re going to be pretty competitive.”