MR. MADONNA — The Madonna softball team celebrates coach Chris Conti’s 300th victory with the Blue Dons during the team’s 15-0 win over Valley in a Class A Region 1, Section 1 sectional contest Monday. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)
ELM GROVE — The Madonna softball team was on a mission right from the start Monday evening when it resumed its Class A Region 1, Section 1 matchup with Valley at the I-470 complex.
That mission was to get veteran coach Chris Conti his 300th win, and the girls accomplished it in grand fashion, dominating right from the get-go en route to a 15-0 five-inning victory for the milestone.
“It is great,” Conti said. “It is a milestone. You coach for 25 years and you never think that you’ll win that many games. I have just had some great teams over the years. It’s not about me; it’s about the kids. I didn’t win the games, the girls won the games for me.
“I am very happy to have reached 300. It took a while, we kept getting rained out. The girls worked very hard for me this year and all the years. It’s a special day for my softball program and Madonna High School. I appreciate the administration letting me coach this many years to get to 300 wins.”
For Conti, who was presented with multiple gifts from his players afterward and has been with the Blue Dons softball team for 25 years (30 overall), achieving the milestone is something that is special to the whole school and well-deserved in the eyes of athletic director Mike Arlia.
“It is special for Madonna High School,” Arlia said. “A lot of people don’t know everything he does for Madonna High School. For 40 years he has cleaned our parking lots. When it snows, he brings gravel if we need it. He’s a better man than he is anything else, and that is what today is about. He is Mr. Madonna.”
Getting Conti the win was something special for senior standout Katie Gasvoda, too. She played a big part in it, tossing a complete game one-hitter in the circle and recording five RBIs while going 3-for-3, including a homer.
“We have been wanting to get it for him for a long time,” she said. “I hope it means as much to him as it does to us. I’m glad we were able to help him get it, and I’m glad to be a part of the team to help him reach this goal. He was (getting emotional), and I thought I was going to tear up, too, because it is a happy moment. He’s an amazing coach.”
Right from the start the Blue Dons (13-3), who were on the wrong end of a no-hitter in the last outing against Wheeling Central, got the offense going. Sophia Recrosio started the bottom of the first with her first of three hits in the game. Gasvoda then stepped to the plate and put the first pitch she saw from Lumberjills (3-10) starter Megan Brown over the left field wall for a 2-0 lead. Jaedyn Kush made it 3-0 with an RBI double, and Gianna Mascio tacked on a fourth run in the inning with a two-out RBI single.
“They came down here and played hard,” Conti said. “The girls never got down (after the loss to Wheeling Central). I told them the old saying, ‘It’s not over until the fat lady sings,’ and they all chuckled. I told them to just keep playing hard and they did. Everybody hit the ball well. It was a complete team effort. I preach team. When do we it as a team, we win.”
Gasvoda, who made quick work of the lone batter she faced in the top of the first, having already recorded the first two outs when the game originally started on Friday, struck out the side in the second on her way to nine punchouts in the game. Her teammates gave her some more run support in the bottom half as Maddie Daughtery drew a bases-loaded walk and Keara Kush knocked in another with a groundout to make it 6-0.
Gia Riccadonna and Sophia Recrosio each singled in a run, Karena Recrosio doubled in another and Gasvoda followed it up with an RBI single to make it a 10-0 lead after three. Riccadonna added another RBI by drawing a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the fourth to start another outburst, this time for five more runs. Karena Recrosio drew another bases-loaded walk, Gasvoda drove in two more with a single and Daughtery plated another with an RBI single to push the lead to 15-0.
Gasvoda, who lost the no-hit bid in the fourth, finished strong by making quick work of the top of the fifth, ending the game with a strikeout.
“My hat is off to Madonna. They are a good team, and that is the level we want to be at,” Valley coach Gary Partridge said. “I love Chris to death; he is a good guy. Congratulations to him and Madonna. We were just a little flat tonight, and against teams like that you have to be at 100 percent.”
The Blue Dons will face Wheeling Central, which defeated Madonna 4-0 in the first meeting in the double-elimination tournament, today at 6:30 p.m. back at the I-470 complex looking to force another game Wednesday with a win.
“Central is a great team, and we’ve got to play them again,” Conti said. “That’s our section — it’s a tough section. We have to play one of the best teams in the state.”
Madonna 15, Valley 0
Valley 0-0-0 0-0 — 0 1 2
Madonna 4-2-4 5-x — 15 14 0
VALLEY (3-10): Brown (LP, 3IP, 10R (10ER), 11H, 2K, 2BB, 1HBP), Harris (1IP, 5R (5ER), 3H, 1K, 4BB) and Bassett.
MADONNA (13-3): Gasvoda (WP, CG, 0R, 1H, 9K, 0BB) and J. Kush.
TWO OR MORE HITS: Madonna (S. Recrosio 3, Gasvoda 3, J. Kush 2, Mascio 2, Riccadonna 2). DOUBLES: Valley: None; Madonna: 4 (J. Kush 2, K. Recrosio, Riccadonna). TRIPLES: None. HOME RUNS: Valley: None. Madonna: 1 (Gasvoda). RBIs: Madonna (Gasvoda 5, K. Recrosio 2, Daughtery 2, Riccadonna 2, J. Kush, Mascio, S. Recrosio, K. Kush).