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2014 IESA Girls Softball Finals Begin This Friday

The 37th annual Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) Girls Softball State Tournament will be held this weekend (September 26-27) at Champion Fields in Normal. This is the 14th year that the tournament has been split into Class A and Class AA based on a school’s 7th-8th grade enrollment. Over 200 schools entered the softball state series and began competition at the regional level.

The starting times of the games Friday and Saturday are staggered by class. The Class AA quarterfinals begin Friday at 10:00 a.m. The Class A quarterfinals get under way at 10:30 a.m. The four quarterfinal winners advance to semifinal games Saturday morning with the third place and championship games set for Saturday afternoon. The Class AA semifinals get under way at 10:00 a.m. with the third place game set for 2:00 p.m. and the championship game at 4:00 p.m. The Class A semifinals begin at 10:30 a.m. with the third place game at 2:30 p.m. and the title game at 4:30 p.m.

The price of admission Friday will be $5.00 for adults and high school students and $2.00 for senior citizens (62 and over) and students (K-8). Children younger than kindergarten are admitted free both days. Fans attending the games Saturday will receive a wristband that is to be worn all day and will be used for entry to the facility throughout the day. Each team advancing to the Saturday games will play two games that day. The price of admission for the wristband Saturday will be $7.00 for adults and high school students and $3.00 for senior citizens (62 and over) and students (K-8).

Complete pairings for each state final, plus the FanZone, can be found at Click on the Girls Softball line in the orange box at the top of the IESA Web Site Home Page. Scores will be updated on the IESA website after each game.

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 class to the state final.

Below is information regarding the 16 state qualifying teams:

Beginning first in Class A is a 10:30 a.m. quarterfinal matchup between the 14-1 Warriors of White Hall North Greene and the Trojans of Windsor (19-5). Making their first ever Class A state finals appearance, the Trojans are led by head coach Brittany Holsapple and are fresh off an impressive sectional championship victory over Toledo Cumberland. On the flipside, the Warriors of White Hall North Greene return to the big dance following a quick exit a year ago. A quarterfinal victory could once again pair the Warriors against the team that eliminated them a year ago, that being Pontiac St. Mary's.

Speaking of the St. Mary's, the Saints enter the state finals with an impressive 21-0 record. That mark will be put to the test early, however, as the Saints are scheduled to take on an Ashland A-C Central (13-3) squad  that is aiming to make some noise in their first ever Class A state finals appearance. The Knights are led by standout pitcher Hannah Carlock and catcher Taylor Danner. As for the Saints, they are coming off a 2013 state finals trip that resulted in a fourth place finish. With an eye on capturing the school's first ever state title in softball, head coach Jeff Schade knows what he has in his Lady Saints. "We have been a very complete team with a deep pitching staff, team speed and an offense that can play small ball or hit for power."

Game three of the Class A quarterfinal action pits the Pumas of McNabb Putnam County (15-7) against the Indians of Brimfield (12-2). Led by head coach Jeanie Jones, Brimfield returns to the Class A state finals for the first time since 2005. As for the Pumas, the 2014 state finals will mark Putnam County's sixth appearance since 2008. That run of success is highlighted by a 2009 Class A state title.

Rounding out the quarterfinal action in Class A is a matchup between two tournament veterans. The Wildcats of Bourbonnais Maternity (15-1-1) return to the state finals still searching for that illustrious state championship. Led by head coach Randy King, the Wildcats have captured either second or third place in each of their previous four state final appearances dating back to 2009. Standing in their way of another deep state finals run are the Tornadoes of Buffalo Tri-City (20-4). The Tornadoes are hoping to duplicate their most recent state finals success in which they captured a title back in 2012. Although the Tornadoes are led by a bevy of weapons both offensively and in the field, the sportsmanship displayed by a certain young lady continues to fuel the team. "Peyton Marinelli is an eighth grader who didn't begin the year out as a starter but continued to cheer on her teammates," said head coach Tony Nika. "About a week into the season, she suffered a season ending injury and yet still remained a spiritual leader for the team. Very few people that I have met in my life have the character of Peyton and I'm proud that she is on our team."

Kicking things off in Class AA is a quarterfinal matchup between the 17-3 Rams of Ottawa Shepherd and the Little Trojans of Charleston (15-1). Making their first Class AA state finals appearance, Charleston is led by head coach Blain Mayhall and are currently riding a 15 game winning streak. Meanwhile, the Rams of Ottawa Shepherd return to the Class AA state tournament of the first time since 2004. The Rams are led by head coach Kara Anderson and are coming off an exciting, extra innings sectional championship victory over Coal City.

Game two of the day in Class AA features the unbeaten Little Giants of Canton Ingersoll (17-0) as they square off against the tournament savvy Spartans of Stanford Olympia (18-3). The Spartans are hoping to add to their impressive trophy case that includes three Class AA state championships (03,04,05), as they return to the big dance for the first time since 2011. "We have a mix of sixth, seventh and eighth graders that play unselfishly with a never give-up attitude," said head coach Al Canopy. The Little Giants of Canton Ingersoll are also returning to the state finals for the first time since their fourth place finish back in 2011. Led by head coach Bob Barnes, the Little Giants recently rallied in the final inning of last Saturday's sectional championship against Washington Central to catapult Canton Ingersoll into the state finals.

The third quarterfinal contest of the day in Class AA features two teams with a combined one loss between them. The Panthers of Manteno (22-0) are back to the Class AA state finals for the first time since winning it all in 2009. Hoping to replicate that post season magic is head coach Josh Carlile and a balanced Lady Panther squad. "We have girls up and down our lineup that can impact a game," said Carlile. "As a matter of fact, we've had different girls step up for us all year long." Hoping to stand in their way of another state championship are the Panthers of St. Joseph (16-1) who return to the Class AA state finals following a quick exit back in 2011. Led by head coach Larry Sparks, the Panthers are aiming to make school history come Friday. "This is one of the better offensive lineups we've ever had here and we wouldn't be where we're at without every player on our roster," said Sparks.

Last but not least is a matchup between two Class AA tournament newcomers in Lockport Kelvin Grove (19-1) and the unbeaten Cardinals of Pleasant Plains (16-0). The Cardinals, who are led by head coach TJ Fraase, are coming off a sectional championship shutout victory over Edwardsville Lincoln. On the flipside, the Hornets of Lockport Kelvin Grove toppled Bolingbrook Jane Addams by the final score of 5-1 en route to punching their ticket to the Class AA state finals.

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