PREP SOFTBALL: Top-seeded Westville rolls past Oakwood in postseason opener

May 15—WESTVILLE — Regular season accolades are important, but the greatest memories are made with postseason success.

The Westville softball team has won four straight undefeated Vermilion Valley Conference titles and 40 straight in league play dating back to 2019, but over that stretch, they have only won a single regional contest in 2022.

That's something the Tigers are looking to change this year.

Westville opened the 2024 IHSA Class 2A state series with a 15-0 triumph over the Oakwood Comets in a regional semifinal played at Westville.

"This is very different," said sophomore Lilly Kiesel, who had three hits and six RBIs in the victory. "We never thought we would be able to host a regional.

"Finally, getting to host one is very exciting."

But, it also a little bit of pressure for the top-seeded Tigers (26-4).

"We all want to perform well since we are in our hometown," she said. "We want everyone to come to the games and have fun.

"Winning a regional title is one of our goals. We really want to play our best, try our hardest and make it as far as we can."

Westville has only one regional title in school history and that was a Class A title in 2006, during the two-class system. Since then, the Tigers are 11-16 in IHSA postseason play and they are 0-5 in regional championship contests.

"We are hoping to get over that hump this year," Westville coach Jay Katavich said. "Getting knocked out in the (regional semifinals) last year against Teutopolis is something this group remembers. We didn't play our best game that day.

"This week, their attitude has been great. We have been pushing all week, knowing that we could get back this first game, but we are really looking forward to playing in the championship on Friday."

Westville will face either Marshall or Paris at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Those two teams were scheduled to play each other on Wednesday at Westville.

The Tigers made sure they would be in that game thanks in large part to an 8-run first inning against the Comets.

Kiesel got the scoring started with a 2-run single, that was followed by run-scoring hits from Layla Atwood, Peyton Sabalaskey and Laney Cook.

"We were all up, excited and ready to go in that first inning," Kiesel said. "Everyone in the dugout was cheering everyone on. We were just going up there and hitting like we know how to."

Kiesel would add a 3-run homer in the third inning and she capped the victory with an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth.

"She is very consistent," said Katavich of his team's leading hitter and top run producer. "We need her in the lineup. She has been doing that all season."

Another constant this season for Westville has been left-hander Abby Sabalaskey in the circle.

She struck out nine, walked one and allowed just one hit — a leadoff single from Oakwood's Caydence Vermillion.

The Comets, who were held hitless by Sabalaskey on May 3, advanced runners to second base in the first and second innings.

Westville shortstop Jazmyn Bennett saved a run in the first with a diving stop of a grounder by Gracie Enos and a throw to third baseman Daylin Zaayer to get Karleigh Nelson for the third out.

"They put in some work and this week of practice was excellent," said Oakwood coach Jason Dunavan, who saw progress from his team.

"This year was abut player development," he said. "Learning more of a mindset. I'm a big on the mindset part, so a lot of our girls developed some mental toughness."

The Comets, with only two seniors on their roster, finish the year with an 8-20 record.

At Westville

IHSA Class 2A regional semifinal

Westville 15, Oakwood 0

Oakwood '000 '0 '— '0 '1 '4

Westville '803 '4 '— '15 '14 '1

WP — Abby Sabalaskey. LP — Gracie Enos. Two or more hits — Westville: Lani Gondzur 3, Lilly Kiesel 3, Layla Atwood 2, Madison Jones 2. 2B — Westville: Kiesel. HR — Westville: Kiesel. RBIs — Westville: Kiesel 6, Gondzur 2, Atwood 1, Jazmyn Bennett 1, Laney Cook 1, Peyton Sabalaskey 1, Dannika Hamer 1,

Records — Oakwood 8-20 overall. Westville 26-4 overall.