1997 Softball (2008)
The seeds of the 1997 Softball TeamÕs journey to the Elite Eight were planted one year before during a heartbreaking and controversial 1-0 loss in the 11th inning of the sectional final. With a berth in the Elite Eight within their grasp, the Ramblers had seen it suddenly and irrevocably snatched away from them. For the returning veterans of 1997, the pain of that biter day only steeled their resolve. The 1997 season would be different. With only three seniors on his roster, Head Coach Jon Cohn and his coaching staffÑJulie Matthei, Danitza Petrova, and Dave BeckÑfielded a young but relatively experienced team. The Ramblers were led by one of the best batteries in the state, junior co-captain and pitching phenom Maral Binnebose (Hall of Fame, 2008) and senior co-captain and defensive catcher extraordinaire Kim Cummings. A young and talented quartet stood guard in the infield, with sophomore Eve Baltrusaitis at first, junior Kate Molina at second, sophomore Lynn Muncell at short, and sophomore Katie Boin at third. Roaming the outfield were senior co-captain Megan Finn in right, senior co-captain Christine Favia in center, and junior Kara Moky in left. Key contributions came from juniors Illiana Fildisis and Courtney Fallon, sophomores Kristen Toren, Kathryn Marut, Gina Cariosca, and Kirsten Magnuson; and freshmen Lisa Knitter and Katie Bohr. Paced by an ace pitcher, a top-notch defense, and a balanced offensive attack, the Ramblers began the season with optimism and a mission. Four straight losses early onÑthree of them by a single runÑleft the Ramblers unfazed as they then reeled off thirteen straight wins. Clearly, this team could take a punch. After losing to McAuley in the GCAC title game, the Ramblers focused their sights on the IHSA tournament that had left them feeling so empty just a year before. They rolled through the regional in dominating fashion, blanking GBS 5-0 in the title game. Two sectional games stood between Loyola and a trip to Peoria. Loyola triumphed in two tension-filled thrillers, with each game won in extra innings. In the semi-final, Loyola downed Elk Grove, 3-2 in the 8th inning. The sectional final game against Lake Park was scoreless until the top of the 9th inning when the Ramblers ignited for three runs and punched their ticket to Peoria and the Elite Eight. There, they drew Lockport, the top team in the state, and, after a three-hour rain delay, they lost to eventual state champion to close out a memorable journey. The Ramblers finished the season with a 25-13 record, a regional and a sectional title, and LoyolaÕs first berth in the Elite Eight. Their dazzling performance down the stretch took them all the way to a final rank of 4th in the Sun-Times and 7th in the Chicago Tribune. Over the course of two lustrous seasons, Loyola softball had come of age, laying the foundation for a future rich in accomplishment. The young women of the 1997 Softball Team had dreamed of greatness, worked to attain it, and then finally achieved it. In doing so, it cemented its place in the history of Loyola softball and left a legacy and a challenge to those who would follow.