Saturday was Sandburg senior Emily Griskell’s 18th birthday.
For all of the Eagles, it was a happy berth day.
Sandburg gained a spot in the Class 4A Elite Eight with a 2-1 Reavis Sectional final victory over Marist.
No one stepped up bigger than the birthday girl.
First, Griskell drove an RBI single to give the Eagles an early lead they would not relinquish. She later came on in relief of starting pitcher Sarah Herold and closed out the victory.
“I knew it might happen at some point, but I was real excited to go in and do my job,” Griskell said. “We had a lot of energy today.”
Sandburg (22-15) will meet Naperville Central on Monday in a Class 4A supersectional at North Central College.
Marist closed at 29-9-1 in coach Denise Bromberek’s final game.
Griskell’s second-inning single off of Marist pitcher Zariya Gonzalez drove in courtesy runner Lauren Schultz. Karli McLaughlin started the inning for the Eagles with a base hit.
Herold protected the 1-0 lead for five innings, stranding a Marist baserunner in each of the first four and doubling off another at first on a soft liner to the circle in the fifth.
Sandburg added a run in the top of the sixth on a double by Maddie Hanley and a single by McLaughlin, before Marist broke through against Herold in the bottom of the inning on an infield single by Julie Trellicoso and a two-out double by Vanessa Villasenor.
Sandburg coach Jim Fabianski went out to the circle, bringing Griskell (who had been the designated player) with him. Herold went to center field.
“Emily has been our hottest pitcher this year,” Fabianski said. “Her last outing she went nine shutout innings against Marian Catholic, and not one ball was hit hard.
“She’s a really good pitcher, and it was her turn.”
On her first pitch, Griskell got Gonzalez on a soft liner to first baseman Katie Krzus.
“I think it was the right move,” Herold said. “That was the third time that their lineup had seen me. And after that one hit (by Villasenor)… I mean, that almost hit the fence. So I think it was smart, a good coaching move.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Marist leadoff batter Alexis Rogers was hit by a pitch. Bella Wilkinson sacrificed her to second, but Griskell closed the door, getting Amanda McIlhany on a fly to Kristen Zarate in right field and Madison Naujokas on a grounder to shortstop Cierra Adamus.
During her 11 years at Marist, Bromberek posted a 336-116-1 record. Her RedHawks won the 2012 Class 4A state title. She is leaving Marist to move to Utah with her family. Assistant coach Colleen Biebel will take over the reins.
“This is a happy place for me,” Bromberek said. “The softball field, Marist high school, I have a lot of great memories and coached a lot of great girls.
“The fact that I have girls come back and coach with me and have girls who believe in me, it’s a pretty great feeling.”