Bombers earn first-ever state softball berth

Bombers earn first-ever state softball berth

BLOOMINGTON — Prior to the 2018 season, Argenta-Oreana couldn’t claim ownership of a single IHSA softball postseason trophy.

That number now is up to three, and it’s guaranteed to reach four before Saturday is over.

Junior Camilyn Newbanks drove in a pair of runs and caught a complete-game three-hitter from freshman sister Cassi Newbanks, lifting the Bombers to a 4-2 Class 1A super-sectional victory over Somonauk at Illinois Wesleyan University and a spot in this week’s state semifinals.

“I knew the talent was there. I knew the heart was there. Getting (to state) is a different thing,” A-O coach Angie Ridgeway said. “Sometimes we could fall apart really easily. But the girls have kept it together, and they’ve known what they wanted from the beginning.”

That would be a state championship, which the Bombers (19-8) are now just two triumphs away from garnering. At the very least, A-O will leave East Peoria’s EastSide Centre on Saturday with some sort of hardware.

The Bombers jumped out to a 2-0 advantage against the Bobcats (28-6) on Monday before Cassi Newbanks even took to the circle, as Camilyn Newbanks and senior Tatiana Garcia each drove in a first-inning run.

That edge doubled on run-scoring knocks from the elder Newbanks and senior Maggie Millington in the third frame.

Camilyn Newbanks has been on a tear in the playoffs, posting 11 hits and 13 RBI over A-O’s first five postseason games.

“She’s one of my leaders,” Ridgeway said. “I know she’s going to be out there and on those bases because she lives and breathes for that. She’s just a diehard softball player.”

Cassi Newbanks took care of the rest, striking out four Somonauk foes while finishing her outing in just 91 pitches. Also key for the Bombers was senior Bailey Benton, who swatted a trio of hits and scored a pair of runs from the top of the lineup.

“We just moved her back to leadoff for the postseason run,” Ridgeway said. “We put her back at the top because we know she’s going to give you 110 percent. She’s a firecracker.”

A-O on Friday must contend with Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg (26-4), which knocked off reigning 1A state runner-up Hardin Calhoun in another super-sectional. 

Saturday’s bout — for third place or the state title — will be against either defending champion Goreville (24-10) or Spoon River Valley (18-4).

Whatever the Bombers’ outcome later this week, Ridgeway and her girls are going to enjoy their moment in the spotlight.

“For the little kid in me, I can’t wait,” said Ridgeway, an A-O graduate. “Never winning a regional before (this season) and going all the way to state, it’s been a heck of a ride.”

Sections (3):Prep Sports, Sports, Softball