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Softball | Marist returns to state with 3-0 win over Lockport

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By Randy Whalen
Correspondent

Isabel Cunnea has ties to Lockport.

Her mom, Jeanine Ondrus Cunnea, is a 1988 Porters graduate.

After homering against her mom’s alma mater in the IHSA Class 4A Marist Sepersectional, Cunnea also has ties to the RedHawks record book.

Cunnea creamed her 22nd home run of the season, one of a trio of long balls Marist hit in a 3-0 victory that sent them to the state finals for the fourth straight season.

The 22 home runs tied Angela Zedak, a 2019 graduate who just finished her senior season at Northwestern, for the most in a season in program history.

When the RedHawks (35-2) face Barrington at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals at Louisville Slugger Stadium in Peoria, Cunnea will get the first of two more opportunities to break that record.

Marist, which is making its seventh downstate appearance since 2012, will look to advance to its third straight state championship game. The RedHawks won Class 4A titles in 2012, 2015 and 2021, and finished runner-up in 2022

Cunnea, a senior center fielder, went back and robbed Lockport junior third baseman Ava Swain of at least a leadoff double in the top of the fifth inning. In the bottom half of the inning, she came up with two outs and none on and crushed a 1-1 pitch for a line shot homer to left to make it 3-0.

“We knew Lockport was a super good-hitting team and we had to keep scoring runs,” Cunnea said. “I mean, it’s really awesome and I’m just so excited to compete with my team again at state.”

The RedHawks also got solo homers from sophomore third baseman Gabi Novickas and junior catcher Caroline O’Brien.

Sophomore right-hander Gianna Hillegonds shut down the Porters (31-9), who were playing in their first supersectional in 18 seasons. Sophomore right fielder Breanna Hanik and senior left fielder Morgan Rogers also made nice defensive plays, with Rogers running to make a diving catch to rob junior left fielder Giuliana Giordano of what would have likely been an RBI double.

Rogers missed last season with a left knee injury and missed a week this season with a facial injury.

“It’s just an amazing feeling and I knew I had to do it for this team,” Rogers said. “I was just reading the ball off the bat and instinctually I was ready.”

The RedHawks now have 91 home runs as a team this season. Every homer added to a new team state record they set this season.

“These girls love to hit,” Marist coach Colleen Biebel said. “They stay after for an extra hour after practice and hit on their own. Every single girl in the lineup can pop one out at any time. Gianna is calm and collected out there and she’s only a sophomore.

“We are just looking at the next game but our girls have played on this stage before. So they don’t get too high or too low.”

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