PORT BYRON — Thursday night at Oregon Park West, the Riverdale softball team will go for the first sectional championship in its history.
The Rams' Class 2A sectional-final showdown against Oregon marks the second time they have played for a sectional title. As it turns out, head coach Randy Creen has been a part of both squads.
Now with five full seasons under his belt as Riverdale's head coach, Creen was an assistant to his predecessor, Teri Peterson, back in 2011 when the Rams brought home their last regional championship and reached the sectional finals, where they fell 3-0 to that year's 2A state champion, Morrison.
After all of last season was last due to the COVID-19 pandemic, just being able to play -- let alone play for another piece of postseason hardware -- has been an achievement unto itself.
"Not having a season last year, that meant all of those seniors missed out. That's what makes this more special," said Creen, whose 17-5 club would advance to Monday's Rosemont Super-Sectional with a win this evening over the Hawks (23-6) to face the winner between Joliet Catholic and Manteno, who play this afternoon at 4:30.
"I think that makes this mean a little bit more, and puts a little more importance on it."
After bringing home its first regional title in 10 years, Riverdale came out firing on all cylinders in Tuesday's sectional semifinal against Johnsburg, going up by five and then holding off a seventh-inning rally by the Skyhawks to earn a 6-4 victory.
"I've been very pleased with the way our offense has come out," said Creen of a three-game playoff run that has produced 20 runs. "All parts of it; we've been able to move runners into scoring position and get the key hits once we get them into scoring position."
Coupled with dominant pitching from senior Ashlyn Hemm (13-2), the Rams ride an 11-game winning streak into tonight's Sweet 16 matchup against an Oregon club that has reeled off nine straight wins. More timely hits and another powerful effort from Hemm could very well bring home that first sectional-title plaque.
"I'd never seen Ashlyn working so hard as she did this past off-season," Creen said. "She really put in the time, and it's nice to see it paying off."