The Class 3A and 4A baseball and softball postseasons are still a week-and-a-half away, but the IHSA's release of the postseason schedule for the two small school classes Wednesday finally gives us a look at what this year's postseason could look like.
We already knew, in baseball, that Teutopolis, Tuscola and Maroa-Forsyth were good, and, in softball, that Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg, Casey-Westfield and Meridian had teams that looked like postseason threats.
But will those good regular seasons equal postseason success? We're about to find out, but until then, here's a look at some favorable and not-so-favorable paths in the Class 1A and 2A baseball and softball postseasons.
Is this the year?
Maroa-Forsyth baseball had back-to-back regional titles in 2016 and '17, but hasn't won a sectional since a state run in 1995.
This year's Trojans team, though, could be poised for their best season in Sean Martin's 22 years as coach. They're off to an 11-2 start, have two aces in Aaron Agee and Ian Benner, and enough offense to put pressure on most 2A pitchers.
Maroa has often run up against postseason behemoths, but this year the path looks like something the Trojans can handle if their defense holds up. The Trojans are the No. 1 seed at their own regional and have a win against their chief regional competition — Pleasant Plains, a team with a ton of postseason tradition. And while the rest of the Pleasant Plains Sectional field includes tough teams in Williamsville, Carlinville and Virden North Mac, Maroa owns a close loss to Williamsville and a close win against North Mac.
It's rare for Teutopolis not to earn a No. 1 seed when it comes time for the postseason, but this year the Wooden Shoes are the No. 2 team in their sub-sectional complex behind Robinson — a team that defeated the Shoes 5-3 on April 9.
But as rare as it is for T-Town to lose regular season games, in the last nine years, the Shoes are 51-6 in the postseason, including 36-0 in the regionals. Robinson (17-3), the top seed in the sub-sectional, has a balanced team led by juniors Kade Lassen and Brayden Childress. But until someone knocks off the Shoes (17-5) — and this team, led by Dawson Smith and Trenton Schwerdt, doesn't like ripe for the picking — it's hard not to pencil in T-Town at state.
The Herald & Review area is particularly loaded in Class 1A softball, but unfortunately for most of those teams, they're not Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg.
The defending state champions are undefeated (27-0-1) and a favorite to repeat with Calla Roney and Megan Schlechte leading the way again for the Hatchets.
But there could be some dangerous and hungry teams in the Hatchets' way at the Macon (Meridian) Sectional. The Bethany (Okaw Valley) Regional's top seed, Meridian, didn't get past the regional semifinals — with a loss to Neoga — last year. This year, Meridian (21-4) — led by Zoie Bowman, Kaelee Stockton and Jesse Damery — is back, more experienced and hungry to erase last year's memory.
The other Toledo Sectional sub-sectional top seed, Casey-Westfield (17-8), was stopped a step short of state in Class 2A last year and just took the defending 1A champ Hatchets to extra innings in a 5-3 loss on April 23. Freshman Emma Mason and junior Claire Maulding lead a Warriors team trying to get back to state for the first time since 2007.
Bulldogs are back
An upset knocked out an Effingham St. Anthony team with state aspirations last year, but the Bulldogs return this year with a group capable of making the program's first state run since the championship season in 2012.
Kaden Fearday and Blake Niebrugge lead a powerful offense that few teams in 1A have the pitching to hold down. But one team that might could be the team the Bulldogs run into in the Dieterich Sectional finals — Nokomis.
Behind Drew Masset and Carter Sabol, Nokomis has a formidable one-two punch on the mound and a lineup capable of mashing with St. Anthony.
Maroa-Forsyth softball broke through last year with its first regional title under coach Jon Kidd, and the Trojans (15-6) are having another outstanding season — this is their 15th straight season with at least 15 wins.
But like it has on many occasions, St. Joseph-Ogden is in Maroa's sectional. The Spartans (15-5) already own a 9-0 win over the Trojans this season.
If Maroa does get past SJO and win a second straight regional title, the program's first sectional title likely won't be easy with sub-sectional top seed Tolono Unity (22-3) likely coming out of the Tolono Regional.
Mount Pulaski (17-3) is having its best season since 2005 and earned the top seed among teams in its Danville (Schlarman) sub-sectional.
Led by Tanner Farris and Ben Fricke, the Hilltoppers own convincing wins against the top two seeds at the Moweaqua (Central A&M) Regional — LSA and Okaw Valley. But Mount Pulaski Regional second seed St. Teresa pulled off a regional title upset last year — against LSA — and the Bulldogs will be hoping to do the same this year.
Tri-City/Sangamon Valley (21-1) is a favorite to win its fourth straight regional title as the top seed at the Riverton Regional behind Kaitlynn Spain.
The Tornadoes have a shot at their second sectional title in three years, but it won't be easy at the Litchfield Sectional. The one team to beat TCSV this year — Williamsville — could be waiting in the sectional final.
In 2012, Tuscola completed a memorable athletic season by putting both its baseball and softball in the state tournament — baseball finished second and softball fourth. This season, both teams have potential to pull off the same feat.
The Warriors' baseball team is 22-2 and has left an impressive list of teams in its wake. They took third in Class 2A last year and — even with solid programs like St. Joseph-Ogden and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley in the potential Bloomington (Central Catholic) Sectional field — are a favorite to make it back to Peoria this year behind Logan Tabling and Cade Kresin.
The Tuscola softball team (24-1) is the top seed at the Teutopolis Regional and has the talent behind Natalie Bates and Kaitlyn Reifsteck to power through the Newton Sectional field.
This story was corrected to show that Tri-City/Sangamon Valley won a sectional title in 2017.