11U teams bring home state championships

Hinsdale Little League, Clarendon Hills Little League Softball teams win it all

The 11-year-olds on the Hinsdale Little League All-Star team weren't content with just one state title.

So the boys, who won the championship last year as 10-year-olds, offered a repeat performance this year, beating Elmhurst 9-0 Aug. 2 to become the best 11U team in the state.

"Of the 13 kids that were on our team, 11 were on the team last year," coach John O'Toole said. "They leaned on their experience from 2022 when we won the 8/9/10 division in Illinois."

The team embarked on a rigorous schedule for about six weeks before the tournament.

"We had practice every day from mid-June through the end of July, working late into the night while their friends were all enjoying their summer vacation," O'Toole said, highlighting the time commitment for players and their families.

The team faced tough competition at the district level from Clarendon Hills and Naperville Continental before moving to the sub-state tournament and then on to the championship series in downstate Salem. There the team beat Streator 12-1, Western Springs 4-0 and Elmhurst 7-3 in three straight days of games starting July 29 before shutting out Elmhurst in the title game.

"In the state tournament, our toughest competition was Western Springs and Elmhurst," O'Toole said. "It was kind of funny that we were all traveling to the middle of nowhere to play Western Springs and Elmhurst."

The team was undefeated (9-0) and scored 91 runs in district, sub-state and state games.

"We are most proud of our defense, as we only gave up seven runs," O'Toole said.

Team member Fred Sackley also mentioned the team's defense - and its pitching as keys to its success.

"We have a lot of pitchers who are really good. We have a lot of players that are really fast on the base path. They are constantly getting more runs by stealing home," said Fred, who is going into sixth grade at Hinsdale Middle School.

His most notable game was the 7-3 win over Elmhurst in the semifinals, in which he pitched five innings.

"I was throwing my curve ball and my fast ball, and they just couldn't catch up to my fast ball," he said. "Also the fielders made a lot of great plays to stop them from scoring runs."

O'Toole cited the 4-0 win against Western Springs as a key game in the series. Alex Vivanco came in to pitch after the starting pitcher was hit in the shoulder by a line drive in the first inning. Alex threw 53 pitches on a day he had not been expecting to play, O'Toole said.

"That was a real team win that a lot of our people were involved in making contributions, and our players showed resiliency, given the injury to their teammate in a very tough environment against one of the best teams in the tournament," he said.

Salem Little League hosted a great tournament, O'Toole said, and families found plenty to do there during the week, from visiting the county fair to going swimming to watching movies.

Coaches and parents are proud of the boys for their success and their sportsmanship and respect for the game, their opponents and the umpires, O'Toole said.

"They did it the right way," he said.

In addition to Fred and Alex, team members are Shane Behar, Colin Boots, Samir Chandarana, Grayson Danek, Kellan Goodwin, Michael Kipnis, Jimmy Macri, Emiliano Nepomuceno, Jack O'Toole, Dillon Phelan and Grant Wanless.

Luke Goodwin and Chad Wanless serve as coaches with O'Toole.

CH 11U softball All-Stars

The Clarendon Hills Little League Softball 11-year-old All Stars came back from a tough 9-8 loss against Brookfield to beat the team 18-7 to capture the program's first state championship July 23 in Brookfield.

"It was a tough loss," coach Rob Goeckel of Hinsdale said. "They allowed four runs in the last inning."

The loss meant the team had to face Moline before taking on Brookfield for the title. Coaches reminded the girls they still had a chance to win the championship, as long as they played the game they were capable of playing.

"They showed a lot of grit and resilience the next day," Goeckel said. "They came out and they did well against Moline. They scored 12 runs in the first inning against Brookfield. They went out to a big lead and never relinquished it."

Pitcher Charlotte Goeckel said she and her teammates were more prepared for Brookfield's strong hitters when they faced them a second time.

"We made sure the outfield was prepared - and the infield, too," Charlotte said.

Players had some extra motivation going into that final game knowing they could become the first in program history to win a title, Emmy Havens of Hinsdale said.

"We were super hyped up to try to win state," she said.

Charlotte and Emmy scored three runs each in the title game, as did Abby Przyzycki of Hinsdale and Olivia McEwen. Abby, Anna Makstenieks of Hinsdale, Emme Campos and Gia Sikorski helped the team get off to a strong start with two hits each in the first inning.

The lead was preserved with defensive plays from Ellie Brankin of Hinsdale at second, Grayson Contreras behind the plate and Despina Patos at third base. Charlotte registered six strikeouts.

"It was a pretty well-rounded effort," Goeckel said. "There wasn't one player who just dominated."

The All-Star team started practicing in early July, Goeckel said, playing 13 games in 17 days as they prepared for and played in the state tournament.

"They really made some great strides in just a few short weeks," he added. "The team at the beginning might have had a hard time pulling it out, but the team at the end was much improved."

Charlotte said she enjoyed the daily outings and saw her awareness in the field improve.

"At the end I was very much locked in and ready to play," she said.

The girls also bonded by spending time together off the field, enjoying pool parties, pizza parties and ice cream.

"We got to know each other more and it helped us work well together and encourage each other more," Emmy said.

Emmy's mom, Ilysha Havens, credited Goeckel for his dedication.

"He was in it to win it, and he is just a superb coach that is super supportive of the girls," she said. "The girls got really lucky to have a coach like that."

He in turn praised coaches Michelle Speziale and Jason Havens.

The 10-year-old, 11-year-old and 12-year-old All Star teams all won their districts and advanced to state, Goeckel said, noting that the program has only been around for seven years.

"Now you're starting to see these girls who got in early who are doing great because they got into it and they stuck with it," he said.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean