Photo by Diane Cox
Marquette freshman pitcher Meghan Schorman winds up for a pitch this season for the Explorers. Schorman will be key as Marquette enters the Class 3A CM Regional.
Without the incomparable Alexis Silkwood last season, the Marquette Catholic High School softball team endured a rugged spring.
The Explorers won only 10 of 35 games after logging a 127-22 record and registering three Final Four state finishes during Silkwood’s four storied years with the program.
“Last year was the worst one I have had in 21 years of coaching Marquette softball,” Explorers’ coach Dan Wiedman said. “We just couldn’t get over the hump.”
They have found their way over any obstacles thus far this season. Through Tuesday, Marquette owned a 21-12 record and is getting primed for the upcoming Class 3A Civic Memorial Regional. They are seeded third behind top-rated Highland and second-ranked Triad in a five-team affair beginning on Monday, May 25. The winner advances to the Mascoutah Sectional.
“It’s wide open,” said Wiedman, surveying the regional scene. “Last year, CM got hot at the right time and did well in it. Jersey is getting hot right now.”
Edwardsville, meanwhile, is the prohibitive favorite in the four-team Class 4A Alton Regional that begins on May 26. The Tigers, 21-3 starting this week and champions of the Southwestern Conference, are paired with Granite City, Quincy and the host Redbirds at Alton.
The Explorers hope to keep their cool and secure their fifth regional championship in five years. They are the only non-Mississippi Valley Conference team playing at Jerseyville. Marquette has defeated CM and Jersey, but lost to Highland. The Explorers haven’t played Triad.
Highland sported a 17-6 record starting the week, Triad was 15-9, Jerseyville 14-12 and CM 6-18. The Eagles are at the Panthers in the opening play-in contest. Marquette tackles Triad on May 26, following the Highland matchup against the CM-Jersey survivor.
“We want to play our best ball at the end of the season,” Wiedman said. “All of the five teams in the regional will be ready to play, so we will have to be at our best.”
He added, “If we play our best, we can compete in the regional. But if we don’t show up, our season will be over.”
Freshmen pitcher Meghan Schorman, catcher Grace Frost and third baseman Tess Eberlin have pumped new life into the Explorers this season. Schorman is 17-10 with a 1.64 ERA and also batting a team-best .417 with six home runs and 30 RBIs. Frost is hitting .340 and Eberlin, the leadoff batter, is hitting .320. Frost has two home runs to go with 24 RBIs and Eberlin has 10 extra base hits and 16 RBIs.
“I didn’t know about the younger kids, but they have done a pretty good job,” Wiedman said. “We are a lot stronger with our pitching this season and in softball, pitching is the dominating force.”
Schorman has done some great things, Wiedman said, but he doesn’t want Silkwood’s success putting more weight on her shoulders.
“I definitely don’t want to compare her with Alexis because Alexis was one of a kind,” Wiedman added. “Meghan has a lot of talent and her pitches definitely have a lot of movement. We are working with her about developing consistency and doing the little things.”
Sophomore Emma Taylor is shining at shortstop and hitting .333. Seniors Megan Wittich (.315) could be the Explorers’ most versatile player. She can play on the infield, in the outfield and pitch.
Sam Harshbarger (.304), Mirana Schroeder (.296), Kalie Buecker (.270), Carly Schaber (.231) and Megan McClard (.227) also have made key contributions, Wiedman said.
“Megan Wittich and Kalie have been a calming influence because they played on the team that got second in state two years ago,” Wiedman said. “They are three-year starters that provide leadership.”
Wiedman, the team’s coach since the mid-1990s, is savoring the Explorers’ rebound season. He foresees a bright future and plans to be a part of it.
“It’s a year-by-year thing for me,” he said of serving as the head coach. “I’ve been involved in softball for 40 to 45 years and it’s what I like to do.”
His daughter, Mary Rivera, is an assistant coach and that strengthens his ties to the program.
“She has helped me for four years and it’s fun working with her,” he said.
Alton, 16-13 going into this week, opens with Quincy on May 27 in the Redbirds’ Regional. The Birds are seeded second and the Blue Devils third. It’s fourth-seeded Granite City, 6-23, challenging Edwardsville on May 26.
The regional title game is scheduled for 11 a.m. on May 30, with the winner advancing to the Normal Community West Sectional.
Shortstop Savannah Fisher is swatting .400 with five home runs and 29 RBIs to lead Alton. Katelyn Presley (.368), Miranda Hudson (.361 with 28 RBIs) and Tomi Dublo (.348) all have lofty averages. Brittany Roady, 12-11 with a 2.95 ERA, is the ace of the staff.
Pitcher Kallen Loveless, 16-1 with a 0.58 ERA, paces Edwardsville. She’s also hitting .493 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. Teammate Rachel Anderson is hitting .547 with seven homers and 25 RBIs. Caitlin Patrick, batting .466, is Granite City’s top threat.
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