High School Softball: ‘Princess’ helps bring Marist one step closer to crown
By Jeff Vorva
Marist senior Abby Dunning was a beast on the mound Monday.
Wait a minute. Scratch that. The softball star doesn’t like being referred to in that term.
She actually picked up a nickname from her teammates that she prefers: “Princess.”
“I’m literally the biggest girly-girl ever,” she said. “I always have my nails done. I wear a bow. It’s my nickname and I love it. I would rather be called Princess or gorgeous or something than a beast on the mound.”
So, “Princess” Abby Dunning pitched a gorgeous game on Monday, throwing four no-hit innings and striking out eight in Marist’s 10-0 five-inning Class 4A supersectional victory over Taft in Mt. Greenwood.
The RedHawks (37-1) face Huntley in the state semifinals at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria. The second game, also at 12:30 p.m., features Lincoln-Way Central against Minooka.
The third-place game will take place at 4 p.m. in the one-day event and the title game is slated for 5 p.m.
Huntley (34-6) beat Barrington 6-5 in 10 innings to get to the Final Four. Marist swept Huntley 2-0 and 10-6 in a doubleheader on April 17. Those were Marist’s third and fourth games of the season.
Marist has been to the state tournament four other times, winning state titles in 2012 and 2015, and finishing fourth in 2017 and 2019.
This year’s version of the RedHawks has not been beaten by an Illinois team, as they lost to Lake Central, Indiana, 2-1 on May 17. They steam into the state semis outscoring five postseason opponents by a combined score of 61-1.
“This is an incredible team – we literally don’t have a weakness,” said the Boston College-bound Dunning. “We have speed on the bases. We have great hitters. We have good pitching, and the defense backs us up and we have a great arm behind the plate.
“It is all-around a solid team and every girl on this team is a great player, for sure.”
Junior Gianna Richy hit a home run over the right-center field fence in the second inning and one of the left-center field fence in the third inning while Isabel Cunnea had a three-run blast.
Richy has five homers thanks in part to a pair of two-homer games this season.
She is the younger sister of Haley Richy, who hit a grand slam in a 5-0 victory over Bartlett in the state championship game in 2012 to give the RedHawks their first state title. It was also the first girls championship of any kind at the school.
Haley went on to play at St. Ambrose, but had her career cut short with a back injury. Gianna remembers that grand-slam game.
“I was little – I was probably eight or so,” she said. “Now she’ll be watching me. This is so exciting.”
A look at Marist’s five postseason softball wins:
Regional semifinal – Marist 16, Proviso West 0
Regional championship – Marist 15, Hinsdale Central 0
Sectional semifinal – Marist 9, Oak Park 0
Sectional championship – Marist 11, York 1
Supersectional –Marist 10, Taft 0