News

May 2, 2018

20th-Ranked Pioneers Dispatch CLC in Quarterfinal Triumph

By Chris Kuchta – Coordinator of Sports Information

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. --- No matter how successful of a regular season that a team may have, postseason play is always a completely different animal.

One bad afternoon and it could all be over.

The Prairie State College softball team knew this full-well and certainly didn’t disappoint, making quick work of Lake County and climbing the first rung of the ladder on the quest to claiming the program’s first-ever NJCAA Region IV championship.

The top-seeded Pioneers, who also entered the week as the nation’s 20th-ranked team, dispatched Lake County 9-1, and 11-1 in a best-of-three quarterfinal series Wednesday at the Pioneer Sports and Recreation Park.

The victory pushes the Pioneers into the tournament’s semifinal round Saturday against a yet-to-be-determined opponent at Highland Community College in Freeport. 

In addition to moving on in the playoffs, Wednesday’s victory also elevated PSC (40-7) to its first 40-win season in program history.

The two wins also capped off an incredible home campaign as the Pioneers finished the season with a 20-2 mark on their own diamond.

Both contests were five-inning affairs.

Six Pioneers recorded multiple-hit efforts in Game 1 as sophomore shortstop Sidney Hero (Griffith H.S., Ind.), sophomore center fielder Hayley Fletcher (Marist H.S.) and sophomore third baseman Sydney Harrison (T.F. South H.S.) all went 2-for-4 with a run.  Fletcher and Harrison also both drove in a run.

Hero, a First-Team All-Region IV selection and All-American nominee, currently has her name plastered across the national leader boards.  PSC’s offensive catalyst leads the country with 93 hits.  She is also second in stolen bases (67), fourth in triples (9) and seventh in batting average (.531).

An 0-for-2 showing for Hero in Game 2 also snapped an 18-game hitting streak.  She has hit safely in 43 of PSC’s 47 games thus far.

Freshman catcher Juanita Carrera (Rich South H.S.) also went 2-for-4 with three runs and an RBI while freshman second baseman McKenna VanDommelen (Bloom Trail H.S.) also went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI.

In the circle, PSC picked up another outstanding effort from sophomore pitcher Sarah Kessler (T.F. South H.S.).  Kessler, also an All-American nominee, pushed her record to 22-3 with the Game 1 win, allowing one unearned run on one hit while walking two and striking out four.

Kessler’s 22 wins rank fifth on the NJCAA rankings and her 19 complete-games are ninth.

Game 2 saw Harrison deliver a 1-for-2, three-RBI, two-run outing.

Harrison has now driven in 70 runs on the campaign, good for second in the nation.  She resides in the top slot of the leaderboard in that category amongst all Region IV hitters as well.

Kessler delivered with her bat in the nightcap as well, going 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run.

Freshman starting pitcher Karly Kos (Hillcrest H.S.) also aided her own cause, going 3-for-3 with a run and RBI.

Koss was also up to the task from the circle, working all five frames en route to her 15th win of the season.  She allowed just four scattered hits while walking none and punching out five.  She didn't allow a hit until the fourth and at one point covering the second and third frames, fanned four consecutive hitters.

Freshman right fielder Salem Garza (Beecher H.S.), (2-for-2, 2 runs, 2 RBI) and freshman second baseman Makaela Ruske (Bloom Trail H.S.) also went 2-for-3.

 

May 1, 2018

No.20 Pioneers Enter Region IV Tournament as Top Seed, Complete Regular Season Following Sweep of DuPage

By Chris Kuchta – Coordinator of Sports Information

CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. --- The most successful regular season in Prairie State College softball history came to a close Saturday afternoon, courtesy of a doubleheader sweep of DuPage.

Now the really hard work begins.

The Pioneers will enter the NJCAA Region IV Tournament Wednesday with an overall record of 38-7 and as the No. 1 seed for the first time in program history.

The Pioneers also made school history Tuesday as PSC cracked the national leader board for the first time ever, entering the week as the nation’s 20th ranked team.

PSC will take on Lake County Wednesday in a best of three quarterfinal series at the Pioneer Sports and Recreation Park (1 p.m.).

Prairie State put a final stamp on its impressive regular season following a 6-4 and 4-2 doubleheader sweep of the Chaparrals Saturday.

The Pioneers own the nation’s top team batting average at .437 and are considered amongst the top offenses in America.

If PSC can push past the Lancers Wednesday, the Pioneers will travel to Freeport for the tournament semifinals and finals on Saturday and Sunday.

 

April 25, 2018

Pioneers Finish Skyway Slate Unblemished, Claim Second League Crown in School History

By Chris Kuchta – Coordinator of Sports Information

Hayley Fletcher hits vs. MoraineCHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. --- Winning a conference championship is of course a special accomplishment.  But, running the table through the entire league?  At Prairie State College, that is a feat of historic proportions.

The PSC softball team completed the first undefeated run through Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference play by a Prairie State women’s athletic team Wednesday, following a doubleheader sweep of league archrival Moraine Valley at the Pioneer Sports and Recreation Park.

The Pioneers downed the Cyclones by final counts of 7-3 and 7-1.

The triumphs extended head coach Frank Wilkins’ club’s school-record, single-season win total to 35 against just six setbacks.  PSC closed the Skyway schedule at 12-0.

Karly Kos pitch vs. MoraineThe conference softball title is PSC’s second in school history.  Prairie State earned its first Skyway crown in 2016.

The Pioneers picked up another stellar showing from sophomore shortstop Sidney Hero (Griffith H.S., Ind.) who swung her way to a 5-for-8, five-RBI, three-run, five-stolen base, two-triple afternoon.

Freshman right fielder Salem Garza (Beecher H.S.) went 4-for-8 as well.

The Pioneers also picked up strong pitching efforts in both tilts as well as sophomore Sarah Kessler (T.F. South H.S.) and freshman Karly Kos (Hillcrest H.S.) both delivered strong outings.

Kessler went the distance in Game 1, allowing three runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out seven.

Kos also went seven innings in the nightcap, allowing a run on five scattered hits while issuing one free pass and fanning six.

The Pioneers jumped out to a 3-0 first-inning lead in the opener thanks in part to a booming two-run home run off the bat of sophomore third baseman Sydney Harrison (T. F. South H.S.).

Prairie State put the nightcap to bed for good thanks in part to a five-run fourth, highlighted by a three-run triple off the bat of Hero, an RBI safety by sophomore center fielder Hayley Fletcher (Marist H.S.) and run-scoring base hit freshman second baseman Makaela Ruske (Bloom Trail H.S.).

The Pioneers will see action next on Friday when they travel to DuPage for a 3 p.m. first pitch.

 

April 12, 2018

Offense Leads the Charge as Pioneers Make Quick Work of Oakton

By Chris Kuchta – Coordinator of Sports Information

McKenna-VanDommelen watches flight of home run vs. OaktonCHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. --- The nation’s top offensive team continued its torrid start to the 2018 campaign Thursday, following a pair of five-inning victories over Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference foe Oakton at the Pioneer Sports and Recreation Park.

PSC downed the Owls by final counts of 19-1 and 18-0.

The triumphs pushed the Pioneers’ overall record to a stellar 26-5 with a 6-0 mark in league play.

Prairie State pounded out 45 hits in the two contests, helping to boost its NJCAA-best team batting average to .455.

In all, the Pioneers blasted four home runs in the twin bill as sophomore third baseman Sydney Harrison (T.F. South H.S.), sophomore pitcher/designated player Sarah Kessler (T.F. South H.S.) and freshman second baseman McKenna VanDommelen (Bloom Trail H.S.) all hit long balls.

Hayley Fletcher Hitting vs. OaktonHarrison, who leads the club with six bombs, went deep twice in the double dip.

A pair of Pioneers collected three-hit days in Game 1 as sophomore shortstop Sidney Hero (Griffith H.S., Ind.) went 3-for-4 with four stolen bases in the opener.

Sophomore center fielder Hayley Fletcher (Marist H.S.) went 3-for-3 with a trio of runs and two stolen bases.

Freshman second baseman Makaela Ruske (Bloom Trail H.S.) set the pace in Game 2, swinging her way to a 4-for-4, 2 run showing.

Freshman pitcher Karly Kos (Hillcrest H.S.), freshman catcher Juanita Carrera (Rich South H.S.), Fletcher, and freshman right fielder/pitcher Salem Garza (Beecher H.S.) all collected three hits in the nightcap.

The Pioneers will be back in action again on Saturday when they host Rock Valley at noon.

 

April 10, 2018

Wilkins Earns 100th Victory at PSC Following Doubleheader Sweep of Lake County

By Chris Kuchta – Coordinator of Sports Information

Head Coach Frank WilkinsCHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. --- Prior to the 2018 season, Prairie State College head softball coach Frank Wilkins decided that his team needed to maximize its offensive capabilities by adopting an approach to hitting that has proved successful in Major League Baseball over recent seasons.

That decision has benefited the Pioneers tenfold, if not more.

When the dust had settled Tuesday afternoon at the Pioneer Sports and Recreation Park, Wilkins’ team had improved to 23-4 overall and 4-0 in Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference play, following a pair of five-inning victories over Lake County.

Thanks in part to a 38-hit attack over the course of the two games, PSC now owns the nation’s top team batting average at .439. 

Sidney Hero lead off third“Before our season started, I knew we had some strong hitting talent,” Wilkins said.  “Over the years, I’ve always had solid hitting teams, but over the last five years, the style of hitting in softball has changed big time, a lot like baseball with launch angles and such.  So, I sat down and talked with one of the top professional softball hitters and instructors in the midwest, Rachel Folden.  We then changed our style of hitting.

“Over the past five months of practices, and thousands of swings, we are currently crushing the ball, with the intent of driving the ball over the outfielder's heads, and not just a couple of hitters, but all of them.  That’s why we’re the number one hitting team in the country right now.”

Lost in the excitement of the two victories was the fact that Wilkins earned his 100th career victory at PSC following the Game 1 triumph.  The longtime skipper of Saint Josephs College (Ind.) is now just five wins shy of equaling former PSC head coach Marty Mears’ all-time win total of 106.

In all, Wilkins has compiled an overall record of 101-60 in just over three seasons at Prairie State.  He now has 418 career wins at the collegiate level.

“I’ve really been blessed with a great group of sophomores that want to win every game,” Wilkins said.  "That, coupled with the great job our pitchers have done this year, is why I was able to secure my 100th win at Prairie State today.”

The Pioneers posted an eight-run first inning to put Game 1 to bed early.

The Pioneers’ cause was aided immensely by the strong performance on both sides of the ball delivered by sophomore pitcher Sarah Kessler (T.F. South H.S.). 

Kessler, PSC’s ace in the circle and cleanup hitter in the lineup, swung her way to a 4-for-4 afternoon at the plate with three runs and an RBI.

Kessler also worked all five of the contest’s frames, allowing the one run on six scattered hits while walking one and striking out eight.

PSC’s ace bumped her season record to 13-2 with her 13th complete game of the slate.  Her 1.30 earned run average is good for eighth on the national charts.

Sophomore shortstop Sidney Hero (Griffith H.S., Ind.), also turned in another stellar effort, going 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles, runs, stolen bases and an RBI.

PSC’s leadoff hitter, who saw her hitting streak extended to nine games, thanks to a 3-for-3 showing in the nightcap, currently sits third on the nation’s stolen base chart with 40.  She also owns the country’s 15th-highest batting average at .546.

In all, seven Pioneers recorded multiple-hit games in the opener as freshman second baseman McKenna VanDommelen (Bloom Trial H.S.), (3-for-3, 3 runs, 3 RBI), freshman catcher Juanita Carrera (Rich South H.S.), (3-for-3, 3 runs, 2 RBI),  freshman right fielder Salem Garza (Beecher H.S.), (2-for-2, 2 RBI, run), sophomore third baseman Sydney Harrison (T.F. South H.S.), (2-for-4, 2 RBI, run) and sophomore center fielder Hayley Fletcher (Marist H.S.), (2-for-4, run) all achieved the feat.

Garza added a 3-for-3, two-RBI, two-run day to her ledger in Game 2.

Harrison (2-for-4, RBI), Kessler (2-for-3, 2 runs), freshman pitcher Karly Kos (Hillcrest H.S.), (2-for-3, RBI, 2 runs) and freshman second baseman Makaela Ruske (Bloom Trail H.S.), (2-for-3, 2 RBI, run) all swung hot bats in the nightcap.

Kos turned in her own strong effort from the circle, allowing a run on four hits en route to her ninth win of the campaign against just two losses.  PSC’s No. 2 hurler refused to walk a batter while fanning three.

The Pioneers will see action next on Wednesday when they travel to River Grove for a road date with NJCAA Region IV foe Triton.

 

April 8, 2018

Pioneers Earn Split With Joliet

By Chris Kuchta – Coordinator of Sports Information

karly Kos PitchCHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. --- Had Joliet starting pitcher Rachel Sangston not made a tremendous play to snare a head-high bullet through the box off the bat of Prairie State College freshman Megan Garrity (Homewood-Flossmoor H.S.) in the seventh inning of the first game of a Sunday doubleheader, the Pioneers would have had themselves a sweep of the Wolves.

Instead, PSC had to settle for a split, dropping the opener 5-4 in eight frames before erupting for a 12-2, five-inning triumph in the nightcap.

The Pioneers now own a 21-4 record, leaving head coach Frank Wilkins one win shy of his 100th victory as PSC skipper.

Wilkins gave the ball to one of America’s top starting pitchers for Game 1 in sophomore Sarah Kessler (T.F. South H.S.), (12-2).  And while Kessler didn’t turn in an effort as dominant as her Saturday performance, it was still one strong enough to win.

PSC’s ace worked the full eight innings, allowing four earned runs on nine hits while walking one and striking out five.

Joliet grabbed hold of a 2-0 first-inning lead.Sydney Harrison HR Celebration

The Pioneers took a run back in the third, when freshman catcher Juanita Carrera (Rich South H.S.) scored on a base hit to center by sophomore center fielder Hayley Fletcher (Marist H.S.).

Joliet led 4-1 heading into the home half of the seventh before the Pioneers went to work, putting the first three hitters of the inning on base.

A Fletcher RBI groundout to first, plated Carrera prior to a line drive, two-run triple into the right field corner from sophomore third baseman Sydney Harrison (T.F. South H.S.), that tied the contest at four.

Harrison was left stranded at third when Garrity barreled up a Sangston fastball, resulting in the Joliet hurler’s sparkling snag.

The Wolves plated a run in the eighth, courtesy of the international tie-breaker as PSC was unable to counter.

Harrison, who went 3-for-4 in Game 1, got the Pioneers’ high-octane offense rolling in the bottom of the first in Game 2, launching a three-run home run to right for a 3-0 lead.

PSC recorded 14 hits in the nightcap.

Three Pioneers picked up multiple-hit efforts in Game 2 as sophomore shortstop Sidney Hero (Griffith H.S., Ind.) led the charge, posting a 4-for-4, three-run, three-stolen base tilt.

Freshman right fielder Salem Garza (Beecher H.S.) swung her way to a 3-for-3, three-RBI afternoon. 

Freshman starting pitcher Karly Kos (Hillcrest H.S.), helped herself by delivering a 2-for-3 contest with three RBI and a pair of runs.

Kos (8-2) was also strong from inside the circle, working all five frames while allowing two runs on six scattered hits with no walks and a punchout.

The Pioneers will take the field next on Tuesday when they face Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference counterpart Lake County at the Pioneer Sports and Recreation Park.

 

April 7, 2018

Stellar Pitching, Offensive Explosion Highlights Twin Bill Sweep of Harper

By Chris Kuchta – Coordinator of Sports Information

McKenna VanDommelan Home RunCHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. --- One would have thought it was a hot mid-July afternoon as opposed to a bone-chilling April one the way that the Prairie State College softball team swung the bats Saturday.

PSC’s incredible 2018 campaign rolled on, courtesy of 18-0 and 5-2 triumphs over NJCAA Region IV counterpart Harper at a frigid Pioneer Sports and Recreation Park.

With the doubleheader sweep, the Pioneers boosted their season record to 20-3, the best start in program history.

Sophomore pitcher Sarah Kessler (T.F. South H.S.) took the ball in Game 1 and didn’t disappoint, going the distance in the contest’s five frames while dominating from the first pitch.  Kessler allowed just a fourth-inning single in spinning her sixth shutout of the season, good for second on the national charts.

PSC’s hard-throwing ace refused to walk a batter while fanning three. Sarah Kessle rPitch

Saturday’s triumph moved Kessler’s record to 12-1 and dropped her earned run average to a paltry 1.09, which currently sits her seventh on the national ledger.  Her 78 punchouts are good for 11th.

Kessler also starred at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and runs.

In all, six Pioneers recorded multiple-hit contests in the opener.

Freshman first baseman McKenna VanDommelen (Bloom Trail H.S.) led the offensive charge, collecting three hits in a 3-for-3, four-RBI, two-run tilt.  The crown jewel of VanDommelen’s afternoon was a second-inning three-run home run.

PSC freshman catcher Juanita Carrera (Rich South H.S.) also registered three hits while scoring three runs.

Sophomore shortstop Sidney Hero (Griffith H.S., Ind.), (2-for-3, run, 2 stolen bases), sophomore third baseman Sydney Harrison (T.F. South H.S.), (2-for-2, RBI, walk) and freshman right fielder Salem Garza (Beecher H.S.), (2-for-3, 2 runs, walk) all achieved the feat.

Prairie State used a seven-run opening frame to put the game out of reach early.

In all, PSC collected 19 hits without a single batter recording a strikeout.

The Pioneers are currently fourth in the nation in hitting with a .422 team batting average.

Head coach Frank Wilkins gave the ball to freshman pitcher Karly Kos (Hillcrest H.S.) in the nightcap and she nearly matched Kessler’s effort.

The 5-foot-8 Kos also went the distance, earning her seventh win of the slate, following a six-hit, one-walk, six-strikeout effort.  Kos carried a no-hit bid into the fifth, sitting down the first 12 hitters she faced before surrendering a leadoff single to start the fifth.

The Pioneers’ bats cooled off in Game 2 as PSC scratched out just five hits.

Prairie State played “small ball” early on, grabbing a 1-0 first-inning lead when Hero, who had reached via a leadoff single to left, advanced to third courtesy of a pair of stolen bases before scampering home on a wild pitch.

Hero plated PSC’s second tally in the third as well, following a sharp base hit to left off the bat of sophomore center fielder Hayley Fletcher (Marist H.S.).

The Pioneers put the game out of reach in the fifth, crossing the plate three times, courtesy of a two-run double to left center off the bat of Garza and RBI single to right from freshman second baseman Makaela Ruske (Bloom Trial H.S.).

PSC will see action next on Sunday when they square off against NJCAA Region IV foe Joliet in a 1 p.m. twin bill.

 

March 22, 2018

Pioneers Move to 13-2 Following Twin Bill Sweep of Harper

By Chris Kuchta – Coordinator of Sports Information

Sydney Harrison HittingPALATINE, Ill. --- The Prairie State College softball team’s incredible start to the 2018 season continued to roll on Thursday afternoon as the Pioneers claimed both ends of an NJCAA Region IV nonconference doubleheader with Harper.

The Pioneers knocked off the Hawks 11-0 and 12-2.

With the wins, PSC improved its overall record to an outstanding 13-2.

The Pioneers were paced in the opener by a trio of three-hit tilts as sophomore third baseman Sydney Harrison (T.F. South H.S.) turned in a 3-for-3, two-RBI, three-run outing.

Sophomore pitcher Sarah Kessler (T.F. South H.S.), (3-for-4, RBI, run) and sophomore left fielder Alyssa Klyczek (Bloom Trail H.S.), (3-for-4, run) all achieved the feat.

PSC used a four-run fourth inning to break the game wide open courtesy of a two-run double off the bat of freshman first baseman Karly Kos (Hillcrest H.S.).

A Harrison two-run home run in the seventh helped seal a six-run frame.

Kessler was dominant in the circle, going the distance while tossing a one-hit shutout.  She walked just one while striking out nine.

In the nightcap, sophomore shortstop Sidney Hero (Griffith H.S., Ind.) led the way with a 4-for-4, four-RBI contest which included a trio of runs and stolen bases.

Freshman catcher Juanita Carrera (Rich South H.S.) delivered a 3-for-3, two-run effort, which included an RBI.

Kos took the ball in Game 2 and slung all five frames, surrendering a pair of runs on five scattered hits while walking one and punching out seven.

A two-run single by Hero and two-tally triple from Harrison helped ignite a four-run second.

Kos’ two-run single and Hero’s RBI safety off the bats of Hero, coupled with a run-scoring single by Harrison resulted in a four-run fourth.

PSC pushed across two additional tallies in the fifth, courtesy of run-scoring singles by Hero and Carrera.

 

March 21, 2018

All-Around Effort Propels Pioneers to Program’s First Ever Win Over Kankakee

By Chris Kuchta – Coordinator of Sports Information

PSC Softball Team
KANKAKEE, Ill. –
There is one program that the Prairie State College softball team has been chasing ever since its inception and to no avail: Kankakee.

The Cavaliers had never fallen in regular season play to the Pioneers in the nearly two decades that PSC has fielded a team.

That all changed Wednesday.

Thanks in part to a stellar pitching effort from freshman Karly Kos (Hillcrest H.S.) and a 14-hit attack, the Pioneers took down their I-57 rivals for the first time ever in regular season play, 7-2 in the nightcap of an NJCAA Region IV doubleheader.

With the win, Prairie State pushed its season record to a stellar 11-2.

PSC dropped the opener of the twin bill 4-0.

While the Pioneers had garnered wins over Kankakee in the exhibition fall season in years past, PSC head coach Frank Wilkins knows that attaining his program’s first regular-season victory ever against the gold standard of Region IV softball is a monumental achievement and a major step in solidifying PSC as a softball force to be reckoned with.

“Beating a team like Kankakee is just another stepping stone to where we want to be as a program,” Wilkins said. “We want to be one of the top teams in the region as well as one of the top teams in the country.  Kankakee has represented that for a long time.  We want to get where they are and where they have been.  Beating them for the first time when it counts is a step toward that.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves though.  Beating them is great, but we have 40 games to still play.  Let’s see where we end up.”

After enduring a rough first inning in Game 2, Kos settled in and handled the Cavalier hitters the rest of the way.

After allowing the first five Kankakee batters to reach base and surrendering a pair of runs, Kos went on to retire the next nine straight and 19-out-of the next 20.

In all, the 5-foot-8 Kos went the distance, allowing just the two runs on five hits while walking one and striking out five.

Five Pioneer hitters collected two-hit outings in Game 2 as sophomore shortstop Sidney Hero (Griffith H.S., Ind.), (2-for4, triple, stolen base, run), sophomore center fielder Hayley Fletcher (Marist H.S.), (2-for-3, double, run, stolen base), sophomore third baseman Sydney Harrison (T.F. South H.S.), (2-for-3, 2 runs, walk, stolen base), sophomore designated player Sarah Kessler (T.F. South H.S.), (2-for-4, 2 RBI, run) and Kos (2-for-3, RBI, walk) all achieved the feat.

A Kos first-inning RBI safety gave PSC a short-lived 1-0 lead.

A long second-inning solo home run off the bat of freshman second baseman Makaela Ruske (Bloom Trial H.S.) tied the score at two.

PSC plated a pair of tallies in the third courtesy of a two-out, two-run single from freshman right fielder Salem Garza (Beecher H.S.).

An RBI double by Fletcher and two-run, two-bagger from Kessler in the fourth capped a three-run frame, effectively putting the contest out of reach.

Kessler went to the circle in Game 1 and took the hard-luck loss, working six innings, allowing three earned runs on eight scattered hits while walking one and fanning eight.

The 11-2 start to the campaign is one of Wilkins’ best in over 20 years of collegiate softball.

“This is the best team at this level that I’ve had,” Wilkins said. “We can compete with the best teams out there, no question.”

Aside from a roster chocked full of talented players, the Pioneers’ skipper attributes a portion of his team’s success to a new offensive approach.

“We’ve adjusted our hitting style to 2018 softball,” Wilkins said. “We’re going to the plate with the mindset that we’re going to drive the softball with authority.  Hit the softball in the air and into the gaps.  Much like the approach that Major League Baseball has adopted the last few years.”

PSC will see action next on Thursday when it travels to Plainfield for a road date with Harper.