CRETE | It's not a good feeling to defeat a conference foe twice during the season, only to see the vanquished somehow come away with the conference title.
Crete-Monee's softball team knows that unfortuate feeling. The Warriors knocked off defending Southland Athletic Conference champion Kankakee twice by slim margins this year, but a 9-3 defeat in their final showdown in addition to earlier losses to Bloom Township and Rich East left the Warriors as runner-ups to the Kays.
"We were disappointed not to win conference, because we've worked hard for that all year," Warriors coach Sue Giannantonio said. "Our goal was to win conference, but now we are going to focus on regionals."
The Warriors enter the Class 3A Crete-Monee Regional as the top-seed. The second-seeded team in their four-team draw — that starts Tuesday -- just happens to be the Kays. The Warriors (17-11) open Tuesday against Rich South, while the Kays will face Rich East in their first-round game. The Warriors last regional championship was in 2005.
"This is a really good chance to come back and beat them one more time," said Warrior first basemen Melanie Lambert. "We really should have had them in that last game, because we had them the first two times."
Lambert, a junior, is no stranger to the playoffs. She joined the varsity lineup as a freshman and earned all-conference honors each of her first two seasons. Last year, Lambert hit .429 with 45 RBIs. This season, Lambert has put up remarkably similar numbers, with a .473 average and 45 RBIs.
One difference in Lambert's performance at the plate this year is her conscious effort to be more patient. The patience has paid off, because she has a .541 on-base percentage.
"She gets a lot of walks and rarely strikes out," Giannantonio said. "When we have runners on base, I can always count on her to bring them in."
With two years of varsity experience and only two seniors on the roster heading into the season, Lambert said she took on a leadership role.
"I try to keep things positive, and when I see someone down, I try to pick them back up." she said. "As long as I do my job on the field, everything will come into place, as well. A team doesn't rely on one person, it relies on the whole team."