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No Clear Cut Favorite in Class AA Girls Softball State Tournament

The 2006 Class AA Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) Girls State Final Softball Tournament gets under way Friday at 10:00 a.m. at Champion Fields in Normal and there is no clear cut favorite in the two-day tournament.

The field of eight teams has an awesome combined won-loss record of 127-24, a winning percentage of .841. The only returning team from last year's tournament is Antioch (24-1). The only team among the eight having taken home Class AA hardware in the past is Normal Chiddix (18-4). Chiddix was second in 2004 and fourth in 2002.

And two of Normal Unit 5's three junior high schools are in the field, both in the bottom bracket. Joining Chddix is Normal Kingsley (15-5). Kingsley won the Sectional D title and Chiddix was the Sectional E winner.

Competition in Class AA gets under way Friday at 10:00 a.m. in the first of four quarterfinal games. Semifinals are set for Saturday monring at 10:00 a.m. The third place game will be played Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and the championship game is scheduled to begin at 4:00 p.m. The Class A state final also is being played at Champion Field on a different diamond. The first Class A quarterfinal game is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.

The Class AA quarterfinal schedule for Friday shows: Wilmington Stevens (11-6) vs. Antioch (24-1) at 10:00 a.m. Edwardsville Lincoln (14-1) meets Homer Clen Homer (12-2) at noon. East Peoria Central (20-2) battles Normal Chiddix (18-4) at 2:00 p.m. Casey-Westfield (13-3) plays Normal Kingsley (15-5) in the nightcap at 4:00 p.m.

IESA girls softball began in 1978 and was a one-class state series until 2001 before the split to Class A and Class AA competition bringing eight teams in each classs to the state final. Classes in IESA two-class competition are determined by dividing the schools entered in the sport evenly. This year a total of 162 schools entered the softball series and 81 began Class AA competition at the regional level. Class A enrollment range was 1-173 for seventh and eighth graders. Class AA began at 174.

East Peoria Central advanced to the state final with a 2-1 win in 10 innings over three-time defending state champion Stanford Olympia in the Sectional F title game. Olympia and Casey-Westfield are the only school in IESA girls softball history to win three straight state titles. Olympia won in 2003-04-05 while Casey-Westfield wore the crown in 1993-94-95.

Three schools in the 2006 field are making their first appearances in the Class AA state final. They are Wilmington Stevens, Edwardsville Lincoln and Normal Kingsley. Appearing for the second time are Antioch, Homer Glen Homer and Casey-Westfield. Third time qualifiers are East Peoria Central and Normal Chiddix.

Largest school in this year's field is Homer Glen Homer with 818 seventh-eighth graders. Smallest is Wilmington Stevens at 249. The others are Casey-Westfield 259, East Peoria Central 417, Edwardsville Lincoln 544, Normal Chiddix 564, Normal Kingsley 653 and Antioch 683. The average enrollment of the 2006 Class AA teams is 523.

Although Casey-Westfield is making its second appearance in the Class AA event, the Lady Braves have a storied history in IESA girls softball. From 1978 to 2005, in the one class tournament series, Casey-Westfield won the title seven times (1983-84-90-93-94-95-97), took second four times, third three times and fourth 2 times. East Peoria Central won four single class state titles.

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