Meeks, Neuqua Valley shut out Naperville North in sectional semifinal

 
By D.J. wanberg
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 6/1/2022 9:35 PM

High school sports postseasons are about many things, and one of those is second chances.

The Neuqua Valley softball team got a second chance with Wednesday's 5-0 win over Naperville North in a Class 4A Yorkville sectional semifinal.

 

The Wildcats (28-5) advance to Friday's 4:30 p.m. sectional final against West Aurora. The sixth-seeded Blackhawks defeated the top-seeded host Foxes on Tuesday. Neuqua and West Aurora did not face each other during the regular season.

The Yorkville softball field is a familiar one to Neuqua. One year ago the Wildcats lost to Yorkville in a sectional final, so Wednesday's victory was particularly sweet.for Neuqua.

"It's a huge accomplishment to get to this point," said winning pitcher Hannah Meeks. "Last year's loss stung."

Meeks, who will attend Illinois State University in the fall and play softball, was in top form Wednesday. She allowed just 3 hits and struck out 13 in earning the complete-game victory.

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Meeks (11-3), who holds the season and all-time strikeouts record at Neuqua, has 175 strikeouts this season with a 1.30 ERA in 96 innings in the circle.

"Everything has gone about the same. I don't know how to describe (Meeks' pitching). It's the same as last year. But it's extended up," said catcher Kayla Shymkewich.

Coach Dani Asquini said Meeks and Shymkewich, who will play college softball at Northern Kentucky University next season, work well together.

"Hannah has the (pitching) talent, but Kayla knows how to call the pitches. I asked them to list her top three pitches and that's what you saw in the game," Asquini said.

Neuqua was just as strong with its hitting performance, cranking out nine hits with four scoring runs.

The Wildcats made it 2-0 in their half of the second. With two outs, Shymkewich doubled and the next hitter, Kaitlyn Wagner, also hit a double, scoring Shymkewich. Wagner came home on Sonja Kristianson's single to center.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Neuqua made it 5-0 in the fifth on homers by Meeks and Kristianson. Shymkewich hit her second double of the contest and scored on Wagner's sacrifice fly.

"It felt so good to hit that homer over the fence. It was kind of an emotional roller coaster. It felt really good," Meeks said.

Naperville North (26-4) got a double from Kristina Donaldson and singles from Rhyan Hampton and Maddi Larsen.

It was one of the most successful seasons in program history for the Huskies, who were seeded second in the sectional followed by the Wildcats, the No. 3 seed. The Huskies, though, opened the opportunity door for Neuqua and the Wildcats jumped in, taking advantage of the familiarity of playing a team four times.

"They had our number," said Huskies coach Jerry Kedziora. "Neuqua is a good team with a bunch of seniors playing at the next level. Meeks is one of the best players in the state. Maybe a couple of our players returning next year can do that."

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