EAST PEORIA — On Sunday, three of the best area softball players and three area coaches led the White Team to a third-place finish at the 23rd Annual State of Illinois Senior Softball All-Star Tournament.
The Super 60 has 60 of the best senior softball players in Illinois, most of whom will be headed off to play college softball. The white team was coached by: head coach Dan Stecken, Seneca, assistant coach: Don Brown, Seneca, assistant coach: Brian Holman, Newark, and assistant coach Jason Bolden, Westmont.
The white roster had three nearby players in: Nicole Pihl of Seneca, Ashlee Kawall of Somonauk, and Lauren Tollefson of Newark. Pihl was named 1st team All-State by the Illinois Coaches Association in Class 2A, while Kawall was named 2nd team All-State for Class 2A.
“It was a really cool experience to play in the Super 60. It was awesome meeting so many talented, new players from all over the state,” Pihl said. “Also, it was so cool to be able to play on the field where the play the state finals. It is such a gorgeous facility. I’m so honored to be chosen to play in such a prestigious event.
“Playing one last time for Coach Stecken and Coach Brown was an exciting way to cap my senior year and career at Seneca High School. They are two great coaches and great guys — I will miss them.”
There were four teams and the White Team opened up with a tough 4-3 loss to the Grey Team. In that game Pihl had a first-inning RBI double and then in the third inning hit a 2-run home run that climbed up the monster hill at the State Championship field at East Side Center in East Peoria. Nicole finished 2-for-4 with all three RBI. Kawall would go 2-for-4 with a stolen base in game one as well. The White Team faced a tough pitching duo of St. Bede’s Lainey Schweikert and Massac County’s Kaylee Childers, both first team Class 2A All-State pitchers.
In game No. 2 the White Team would match up against the Red All-Stars who were led by another first-team All-State pitcher in Williamsville’s Hayley Long. The White Team would pound the ball, scoring five runs in the third inning, all with two outs, to take an early 8-3 lead. Nicole Pihl had two more hits, including an RBI double. Tollefson, who played left field and second base, would make a couple key defensive plays in left field for the White Team to secure the victory. Kawall was robbed of a slap base hit on a great play by the second baseman and was robbed of a great bunt single by the Moline catcher’s cannon of an arm.
This was a great experience for me. I was honored to coach so many great athletes on one roster, not to mention some great kids who laughed, had fun, and worked hard all day. We had a team of All-Stater’s competing all day, who supported each other, and had a great time. When you look at a roster that includes on paper eight D1 players (2 could not play and had to cancel), and a lineup that boasts six D1 players, a couple of Jucos, and then three three-sport athletes who are just plain scrappy and athletic, this was an amazing group of athletes to coach.
It was extra special to be able to coach Nicole one last time. There was a bittersweet moment watching her hit a moonshot bomb on the field where the state tournament is played.
Through four years, our common goal was to get to state and we came two games away twice, but never made it. I was so proud to see Nicole shine against some of the best pitchers in the State of Illinois.
Another fun fact, every local player’s high school coach came out to support them. Scott Siuda from Somonauk drove down to root for Kawall and Holman coached Tollefson, while Don and myself were there for Nicole. This is a sign of great support from coaches to sacrifice their weekend in the summer to support their players.
“Well it was quite a bit different than playing Little Ten Conference games, but it was an awesome experience to play and compete against talented girls with bright futures in college softball,” Tollefson said.
Pihl is the second player from Seneca HS to play in the Super 60. Alanna Viken played in the event two years ago.