Tidal Waves Enjoying Low-Pressure Situation

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Byline: John Radtke

Unlike the state tournament series in high school, where a loss ends your season, summer softball teams qualify for national tournaments as early as June then spend the rest of the summer tuning up for the national appearance.

The Crystal Lake Tidal Waves Blue 18-and-under team is one of those squads.

After finishing tied for sixth place and earning a national tournament bid in the National Softball Association state tournament in Schaumburg last month, then taking second in the American Fastpitch Association's state tournament in Rockford the following weekend, the Tidal Waves had two national bids in the bag before the Fourth of July.

So it's little wonder, with the pressure off, the Waves finished eighth in another AFA qualifier over the weekend of the Fourth, then took third this past weekend in an NSA qualifier in Milwaukee.

"I think we're going through a little lull right now," said Waves coach Mike Buck, whose 36-9 team lost a doubleheader to the powerful Barrington Hurricanes last week before going 3-2 in the NSA tourney in Milwaukee. "We made some mistakes over the weekend that we normally wouldn't make.

"That bothers me as a coach but the kids know they've already qualified so I'm sure that has something to do with the way we played."

The AFA nationals in Kansas City and the NSA nationals in Chattanooga are both the last week of July and the Tidal Waves have opted to play in the NSA tournament. The Tidal Waves Gold 18-and-under team also qualified for that tournament this past weekend while the Waves' 16-and-under Blue team also advanced to nationals. That means three Tidal Waves clubs will descend on Chattanooga.

"That makes it nice for our whole program," Buck said. "We'll have three teams playing in nationals at the same time at the same place and we'll all stay in the same hotel. That should be fun."

Buck continues to rely on Jacobs graduate Julie Weightman and Antioch's Jamie Silarski as his main two pitchers while Woodstock's Lisa Strout remains on the mend from elbow surgery. He said Weightman and Silarski both pitched well over the weekend while Silarski and Cary-Grove graduate Jill Karwoski each hit well.

Between now and the end of the month, Buck's squad will try to fine tune its game in the hopes it can better last season's seventh-place NSA nationals finish.

"We'll use this time to rest up some," Buck said. "Our pitchers are tired. It's been really hot and it gets to be draining. We'll try to do enough to stay sharp but not too much to get too tired."

Both Crystal Lake 18-and-under teams will participate this weekend in the Reedsburg, Wis. …