Class 1A state softball tournament: Villa Grove in the Final Four

May 30—All four teams will leave Peoria on Saturday with a state trophy. But only one — either Villa Grove, AlWood, Illini Bluffs or Trico — will leave with a state championship. Sports Editor Matt Daniels has a quick snapshot into all four Class 1A softball teams before first pitch arrives Friday at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria:

➜ Record: 25-12-1

➜ Coach: Jeana Block (144-88-1 record in her eighth season at Villa Grove)

➜ How they got here: By overcoming a slow start to the season. Villa Grove entered April with a 5-7-1 record, but haven't lost since a May 2 setback against Argenta-Oreana. A come-from-behind 5-2 win in eight innings against Serena on Monday in Bloomington clinched the program's first trip to the state tournament after the Blue Devils beat LeRoy 3-2 last Saturday in a sectional title game in LeRoy. Those two milestone victories happened after a 4-0 win against Heyworth on May 21 in a sectional semifinal game in LeRoy, an 11-1 win against Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley to win a regional title on May 17 in Villa Grove and a postseason-opening 15-0 win against Armstrong-Potomac on May 14.

➜ Their top hitter is ... Piper Kiser. The 5-foot-6 sophomore third baseman brings the pop to the Blue Devils' lineup with a .439 average, a team-high nine home runs and a team-high 51 RBI. Add in 14 doubles and six triples, and she is an extra-base hit waiting to happen.

➜ Their top pitcher is ... Alex Brown. The 5-6 senior right-hander and future Danville Area Community College player has been Villa Grove's workhorse on its postseason run. She brings a 13-5 record with a 3.79 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 122 innings into Friday's 10 a.m. semifinal game with AlWood.

➜ Their state tournament history is ... all happening right now. Villa Grove won a sectional title in 2019, but has never advanced this far in the postseason until this week.


➜ Record: 30-5-1

➜ Coach: Renae Leander (139-104-2 record in her 10th season at AlWood)

➜ How they got here: Timely hitting and quality pitching. The Spartans defeated East Dubuque 6-4 on Monday in a super-sectional game in Moline to earn their spot this Friday in Peoria. A 4-0 win against West Central in the sectional title game in Williamsfield transpired this past Saturday, along with a 7-1 win against Henry-Senachwine on May 22 in a sectional semifinal game. The Spartans hosted their own regional, beating Abingdon-Avon 2-0 in the regional title game on May 17 and edging Princeville 2-1 in a regional semifinal game on May 15.

➜ Their top hitter is ... Macknezie Peck. A freshman third baseman, Peck is a well-rounded hitter already with a .441 average, three home runs and 30 RBI. She also has 11 doubles in a lineup that features six hitters with an average of at least .322.

➜ Their top pitcher is ... Mya Brown. The senior right-hander is the Spartans' unquestioned ace. In 25 appearances, she sports a 19-3 record and a 1.98 ERA. Perhaps more impressive is 268 strikeouts compared to 44 walks in 145 innings.

➜ Their state tournament history is ... like Villa Grove, all new. The Spartans will play their first state tournament game on Friday.

➜ Record: 25-1

➜ Coach: Lindsey Lox (83-9 in her fourth season at Illini Bluffs)

➜ How they got here: By continuing their dynasty. Lox has coached in a state title game during her first three seasons and will keep that streak going if the Tigers beat Trico in the second 1A state semifinal game on Friday. A 2-1 win against Carrollton on Monday in Athens sealed Illini Bluffs' fifth straight trip to state. That win was preceded by a 1-0 victory against Pleasant Hill in a sectional title game this past Saturday in Glasford, a 6-1 sectional semifinal win against Payson Seymour on May 21, an 11-0 regional title win against Rushville-Industry on May 18 in Hartsburg and a postseason-opening 18-0 win in a regional semifinal game against Hartsburg-Emden on May 15.

➜ Their top hitter is ... Sara Finn. The 5-foot-3 sophomore packs a punch when she steps into the batter's box with a .566 average, 11 home runs and 34 RBI. She also has scored a team-high 41 runs to go along with nine doubles and four triples.

➜Their top pitcher is ... Cora Ellison. The 5-7 sophomore right-hander is 15-1 with a 1.49 ERA in 113 innings. She has struck out 148 and only walked 36.

➜ Their state tournament history is ... outstanding. The Tigers placed second last year after winning back-to-back state titles in 2021 and 2022.

➜ Record: 27-5

➜Coach: Drew Franklin (373-160 record in his 18th season at Trico)

How they got here: With an extra-inning win. Trico defeated Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg 5-3 in eight innings on Monday in a super-sectional game in Johnston City. A 2-0 win against Goreville in a sectional title game on the Blackcats' home field last Friday kept the Pioneers' journey to Peoria intact. A 12-3 sectional semifinal win against Ullin Century on May 21, a 6-0 regional title win against Waltonville on May 18 and a 19-0 regional semifinal win against Steeleville on May 15 were a little less stressful.

➜ Their top hitter is ... Taylor Cottom. A senior third baseman, Cottom stands out immediately with her 17 home runs and 40 RBI that backs up a team-high .418 average.

➜ Their top pitcher is ... Josie Wettig. The senior right-hander and McKendree commit threw all eight innings of Monday's super-sectional win, striking out eight and only walking two.

➜ Their state tournament history is ... filled with state trophies, but no state title. Trico placed second in 2014 and third in 2016.