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PEORIA — She didn’t cry after a ferocious collision with her third baseman.

She didn’t cry after she was left stranded on third base in the final inning.

It wasn’t until the postgame pictures were done and she was hugging her Joliet Catholic teammates and friends that senior catcher Jolee Santiago started streaming tears.

Yes, the 4-0 loss to Rockridge in the Class 2A state championship game Wednesday was starting to sink in. But so was her pride. So were the friendships.

“I mean, it’s happy tears and sad tears,” Santiago said. “It’s hard to lose, but it’s so good to see all of our hard work pay off.

“We made history this year. I’m thankful for that and to be with this group of girls. I’m going to miss them a lot, so this is very special.”

The history? The second-place finish was the best in Joliet Catholic softball history, besting the fourth achieved in 1988 in Class AA.

“I don’t think a lot of people from school, from around the area, thought we could do this,” Santiago said. “If you had said to them this year was the squad to do this, I think honestly they would have laughed in your face.

“I think we proved a lot of people wrong.”

Along the way, Santiago was one of the leaders for the Angels (23-9).

Her two-run triple helped seal a 5-0 victory over Tolono Unity in the semifinal game. The triple against Rockridge came with one out in the seventh.

Santiago, an Illinois-Chicago recruit, also showed supreme toughness.

In the Rockridge half of the third inning, Santiago and freshman third baseman Wrigley Fanter collided heavily while both were closing in on a foul pop-up.

“We were both going for the ball,” Fanter said. “I didn’t hear her call for it, so it was just a mess up.”

It led to a scary couple of minutes as Santiago was attended to by a trainer and Joliet Catholic’s coaches.

Santiago didn’t see stars.

“No, but I did feel my head start to take the brunt of it,” Santiago said. “I just kind of calmed down, got a drink of water and cooled off.”

In the following inning, Santiago chased down and caught two foul balls to help strand a Rockridge runner on second base.

“And I made sure I called them,” Santiago said, laughing. “I made sure I was loud and proud and that everybody in the stands heard it.”

Rockridge (29-0) became the 10th team in state softball history to finish a season undefeated. The Rockets were led by sophomore infielder Payton Brown, who went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs.

Joliet Catholic, meanwhile, couldn’t reach right-hander Kendra Lewis for a run. But the Angels did produce hits in six of the seven innings, including two by junior Mack Brow.

Two others came from Fanter, who finished a remarkable 5-for-7 with two runs in two state games on the same day. It was quite a showcase for a girl who just a year ago was an eighth grader dreaming of playing high school softball.

“I was feeling it,” Fanter said. “Today was a good for me. It was a good day for everyone as well.”

Fanter wasn’t rattled being on the big stage.

“I play high-level softball with my travel team, so I had some idea,” Fanter said. “But this was on a much higher level. I really felt the pressure, but it was nice to feel it.”

Fanter’s big day boosted her average to .413. She was one of seven underclassmen Joliet Catholic coach Tina Kinsella penciled into the starting lineup.

“She is a spitfire, isn’t she?” Kinsella said of Fanter. “But it’s not just Wrigley. Yes, it’ll probably start with her, but half of the team is returning for the next two or three years.

“We’re going to be back.”



PEORIA — She didn’t cry after a ferocious collision with her third baseman.

She didn’t cry after she was left stranded on third base in the final inning.

It wasn’t until the postgame pictures were done and she was hugging her Joliet Catholic teammates and friends that senior catcher Jolee Santiago started streaming tears.

Yes, the 4-0 loss to Rockridge in the Class 2A state championship game Wednesday was starting to sink in. But so was her pride. So were the friendships.

“I mean, it’s happy tears and sad tears,” Santiago said. “It’s hard to lose, but it’s so good to see all of our hard work pay off.

“We made history this year. I’m thankful for that and to be with this group of girls. I’m going to miss them a lot, so this is very special.”

The history? The second-place finish was the best in Joliet Catholic softball history, besting the fourth achieved in 1988 in Class AA.

“I don’t think a lot of people from school, from around the area, thought we could do this,” Santiago said. “If you had said to them this year was the squad to do this, I think honestly they would have laughed in your face.

“I think we proved a lot of people wrong.”

Along the way, Santiago was one of the leaders for the Angels (23-9).

Her two-run triple helped seal a 5-0 victory over Tolono Unity in the semifinal game. The triple against Rockridge came with one out in the seventh.

Santiago, an Illinois-Chicago recruit, also showed supreme toughness.

In the Rockridge half of the third inning, Santiago and freshman third baseman Wrigley Fanter collided heavily while both were closing in on a foul pop-up.

“We were both going for the ball,” Fanter said. “I didn’t hear her call for it, so it was just a mess up.”

It led to a scary couple of minutes as Santiago was attended to by a trainer and Joliet Catholic’s coaches.

Santiago didn’t see stars.

“No, but I did feel my head start to take the brunt of it,” Santiago said. “I just kind of calmed down, got a drink of water and cooled off.”

In the following inning, Santiago chased down and caught two foul balls to help strand a Rockridge runner on second base.

“And I made sure I called them,” Santiago said, laughing. “I made sure I was loud and proud and that everybody in the stands heard it.”

Rockridge (29-0) became the 10th team in state softball history to finish a season undefeated. The Rockets were led by sophomore infielder Payton Brown, who went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs.

Joliet Catholic, meanwhile, couldn’t reach right-hander Kendra Lewis for a run. But the Angels did produce hits in six of the seven innings, including two by junior Mack Brow.

Two others came from Fanter, who finished a remarkable 5-for-7 with two runs in two state games on the same day. It was quite a showcase for a girl who just a year ago was an eighth grader dreaming of playing high school softball.

“I was feeling it,” Fanter said. “Today was a good for me. It was a good day for everyone as well.”

Fanter wasn’t rattled being on the big stage.

“I play high-level softball with my travel team, so I had some idea,” Fanter said. “But this was on a much higher level. I really felt the pressure, but it was nice to feel it.”

Fanter’s big day boosted her average to .413. She was one of seven underclassmen Joliet Catholic coach Tina Kinsella penciled into the starting lineup.

“She is a spitfire, isn’t she?” Kinsella said of Fanter. “But it’s not just Wrigley. Yes, it’ll probably start with her, but half of the team is returning for the next two or three years.

“We’re going to be back.”