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2015 Softball Preview

  • Written by Ken Karrson

 

SOFTPREV.PHOTO1.3-26

 

2015 Softball Preview

Here’s the pitch

Expect a high level of play from locals

 

CHICAGO CHRISTIAN

2014 Record: 14-16.

Head coach: Kevin Pittman.

* Who’s gone: Kaycee Pittman, Trisha Belgrave.

* Who's back: Sam Kubik OF/C, Sr. (.364, three HRs); Abbie Bulthuis, OF, Sr. (.322, 15 steals); Bre Vollan, 3B/P, Sr. (15 RBI); Christa Janowiak, INF/OF, So.; Tori Skala, OF, Sr.; Stephanie Kuiper, INF, Sr.; Emily Vilendrer INF/OF, Jr.; Madison Riemersma, OF, Jr.

* Who's new: Hannah Dieck, P/SS, Fr.; Jordan Dryfhout, C, Fr.; Bethany Regnerus, IF/P, Fr.   

* Outlook: The Knights will miss the production and leadership of Kaycee Pittman and Trisha Belgrave, who helped Chicago Christian claim a Class 3A regional championship last season. However, coach Kevin Pittman still brings back five starters from the 2014 squad, and they’ll team with three freshmen who are expected to step into the regular lineup. Sam Kubik, Abbie Bulthuis, Bre Vollan, Stephanie Kuiper and Tori Skala provide the veteran leadership while Hannah Dieck, Jordan Dryfout and Bethany Regnerus are the highly touted newcomers. Pittman has pegged Dieck as his prospective No. 1 pitcher, but Vollan should also receive a fair amount of opportunities in the circle. Sophomore Christa Janowiak and juniors Madison Riemersma and Emily Vilendrer are other likely contributors for the Knights this spring.

* Coach’s comments: “Having almost our entire infield, with the exception of Tricia Belgrave, back is a big plus as we head into the season. Sam Kubik was our best hitter last year and top home-run slugger, so we’re looking for her to have a really big year. We’re moving Abby Bulthuis to short while we work Bethany into the starting slot at second.

“It’s [a] positive having three freshman starters because they’re all competitive and talented and we get to have them for four years. Hannah can’t take the mound every day, nor do I want her to so we have Bre at No. 2. She’s worked hard at this these past four years and I think she’s ready to take the next step forward. I expect this team to challenge for a [Metro Suburban] conference championship.” -- Pittman

EVERGREEN PARK

2014 Record: 20-13.

Head coach: John O’Connor.

* Who’s gone:  Carolyn Roberts.

* Who’s back: Jenna Haase, C, Sr. (.550, five HRs, 41 RBI, 30 runs); Bethany Salazar, OF/P, Jr. (.685, nine HRs, 54 runs, 35 RBI, 12 steals); Caroline Andrade, INF, Sr. (.585, five HRs, 38 runs, 34 RBI); Maddie Vojacek, INF/P, Jr.; Abby Langevin, IF/C, Sr.; Nicole Larkin, INF, Sr.;  Megan Pyles, P/3B, So.; Maddie Meisl, INF/OF, Jr.

* Who’s new: Kelly Farmer, P, Fr.; Lizzie Brendich, 2B, Fr.; Haley Getz, P, Fr.        

* Outlook: After falling just two runs shy of a Class 3A regional championship last spring, the Mustangs will try again -- and they’ll do so with a sizable core group that went through the postseason experience a year ago. Bethany Salazar’s offensive numbers as a sophomore were off the charts, but she’s just one of the big-time weapons in Evergreen Park’s arsenal. Seniors Caroline Andrade and Jenna Haase were equally potent -- between them the trio provided the Mustangs’ offense with 19 homers, 110 RBI and 122 runs, and all three players batted .550 or above. For good measure Salazar also swiped a dozen bases.

            Beyond that highly productive threesome are other key veterans, including seniors Nicole Larkin and Abby Langevin and junior Maddie Vojacek, who’ll pair with Salazar to give Evergreen stability in the pitching circle. Coach John O’Connor also expects input of some kind from juniors Edith Morales and Rebecca Roberts, sophomores Amanda Richter and Megan Quick and perhaps a few freshmen. The pieces would seem to be in place for the Mustangs to enjoy another 20-win season, and O’Connor is figuring on at least a top-three finish in the South Suburban Conference Red and hoping for greater advancement in the state tournament.

* Coach’s comments: “The keys to a successful season will be staying healthy and continued development from our pitchers. We will be a young team and will need to rely on some of our younger players to step up and perform.

“Hitting will be our biggest strength, but we have a group of talented pitchers that may also help our team. With so many young players, I hope our defense can be as solid as we need it to be.” -- O’Connor

MARIST

2014 Record: 29-9-1.

Head coach: Colleen Biebel.

* Who’s gone: Brooke Wyderski.

* Who’s back: Brooke Wilson, OF, Sr. (.427, 34 RBI, 32 runs, two HRs); Madison Naujokas, SS, Jr. (.445, 10 HRs, 48 runs, 39 RBI); Zariya Gonzalez, P, Sr. (25-5, 1.39 ERA); Vanessa Villasenor, OF, Jr. (.352, 28 RBI, 19 runs); Alexis Rogers, 3B, So. (.353, 29 RBI); Jill Kenny, C. Jr.; Amanda McIlhany, INF/OF, Jr.; Liz Annerino, P, Jr.; Hayley Franks, 1B, Sr.

* Who’s new: Paige Egan, OF Jr.; Emily Reilly, P, Jr.; Emily Luzzo, C/INF, Jr.; Kara Apato, OF, Fr.; Maggie Kehoe, 2B, Fr.

* Outlook: It’s not always easy to follow a coach who achieved the kind of success Denise Bromberek did in her years at the RedHawks' helm, a stint that included a state championship in 2012. However, new coach Colleen Biebel is poised to maintain Marist’s winning tradition, although she’ll have to do so without one very big playing piece: 2014 Player of the Year Brooke Wyderski. Still, plenty of talent is on hand, enough to where the RedHawks should make Biebel’s maiden voyage a pretty enjoyable one.

            Scoring runs should not be a problem, even without the formidable Wyderski anchoring the batting order. Madison Naujokas is one of the area’s best sluggers and she, Loyola University-bound Brooke Wilson, Vanessa Villasenor and Alexis Rogers combined to drive in 130 runs last spring. Naujokas and Wilson both posted averages well above .400 while Villasenor and Rogers each eclipsed .350. Not to be forgotten either is senior Zariya Gonzalez, who is the staff ace and a capable hitter. Her .339 average was something of a bonus, though; of much greater importance to Marist was her 25-5 pitching ledger and 1.39 earned-run average. Senior Hayley Franks and juniors Jill Kenny, Amanda Ilhany and Liz Annerino are other experienced returnees.

* Coach’s comments: “We have a solid group of returners from last year. These girls are competitors and will do whatever it takes to finish strong. Our tough [East Suburban Catholic] conference schedule will prepare us for the state playoffs.” -- Biebel

MOTHER MCAULEY

2014 Record: 23-5.

Head coach: Colleen Kilduff.

* Who's gone: Alex Brown, Bri Gyrion, Jess Alberts.

* Who's back: Amy Balich, SS, Jr. (.395, .600 slugging pct., 22 runs, 20 RBI); Morgan Fleming 3B, Sr. (.412, .700 slugging pct., 25 runs, 22 RBI); Holly Marousek, P, So.; Emily Rux, C, Sr.; Jen Crowley, CF, Sr.; Nicole Majewski, RF, Sr.; Dara Sanders P, Sr.

* Who's new: Molly Murphy, INF, Jr.

* Outlook: A Class 4A regional championship was the culmination of a successful 2014 campaign for the Mighty Macs, who will take aim at some more postseason hardware behind the on-field leadership of Amy Balich and Morgan Fleming. Mother McAuley’s two most prominent returnees from an offensive standpoint joined forces to provide their team with 47 runs and 42 RBI a year ago and Fleming finished with a .412 average and .700 slugging percentage. Balich was right behind her in both categories (.395 and .600, respectively) and augmented her stick work with solid defense -- she was charged with just four errors last season at shortstop.

            Also back for coach Colleen Kilduff is senior Emily Rux, who’ll don the catching gear for the third consecutive season. Jen Crowley and Nicole Majewski are other returning seniors while junior Molly Murphy comes over from Mt. Assisi. Without Jess Alberts in the fold, the Macs need to settle on a new No. 1 hurler -- among the top candidates are senior Dara Sanders and sophomore Holly Marousek.

* Coach’s comments: “The Mighty Macs have a great group of talented young ladies this year who will look to make a run deep into the playoffs. With a great combination of speed and power, the team will be extremely competitive and fun to watch. We have a very talented team with a lot of veterans on it [and] we have strong pitching and defense.

“Our plan is to win conference again but to make it further in the state playoffs.” -- Kilduff

OAK LAWN

2014 Record: 15-18.

Head coach: Brian Frangella.

* Who’s gone: Reily McTeague, Morgan Jozsa, Elisabeth Childers, Jamie Alberts.

* Who’s back: Mia Loya, INF/P, Jr. (.343, 17 RBI, two HRs; 7-4, 2.35 ERA); Marissa Loya, P/INF, Jr. (.337, 26 RBI, five HRs); Ashley Labuda, 3B, Sr. (.337, 20 RBI); Hayden Landingham, C, Sr. (.360, 14 RBI); Kaleigh Hayes, LF, Sr.; Dana Greene, OF, Sr.; Kacie Heeter, 1B/2B, Sr.

* Who’s new: Natalia Rafacz, 2B/P/OF, So.; Maddie Pagliaro, OF, Jr.; Annabelle Fritz, INF/OF, So.; Kara Melvin, OF, Jr.; Danielle Allen, C, Jr.; Madison Jones, OF, Sr.; Hannah Featherstone, OF, Jr.

* Outlook: Last season the Spartans faced the challenge of dealing with the graduation of four-year starting second baseman and team MVP Rachel Burba. They were successful as they won five more times than they had in 2013. This year presents a similar scenario as 2014 MVP Reily McTeague has departed, but Oak Lawn coach Brian Frangella is confident his girls will again handle the situation with little difficulty.

Mia Loya and Hayden Landingham are returning All-South Suburban Conference Red performers and will spearhead the 2015 Spartans’ attack. Loya will contribute as both a hitter and pitcher. Her sister, Marissa, is also a double-edged weapon -- the latter’s five homers and 26 RBI are the most among Spartans veterans. Another valuable asset is third baseman Ashley Labuda. Others with game experience who are suiting up for Oak Lawn once more include seniors Kaleigh Hayes, Dana Greene and Kacie Heeter.

* Coach’s comments: “We made great strides last year on the field and this team is poised to take the next step. The girls are hungry and we want more.

“Our strengths lie in skill, depth and desire. We went 9-10 last season in conference play, so we’re confident that we can improve there and even compete for a conference championship.” -- Frangella

QUEEN OF PEACE

2014 Record: 6-16.

Head coach: Scott Sobol.

* Who’s gone: Magdaline Bennett, Jasmine Escobedo, Ally Garr, Margaret Keane, Kelly Meloy.

* Who’s back:  Lindsey Kudecki, P/1B, Jr.; Caitlin Fitzgerald, INF, Jr.; Kayla Rybolt, OF, Jr.; Erin Jones, 3B, Sr.; Emily Janozik, C/INF., Sr.; Abby Bennett, OF, Sr.; Dani Jimenez, OF, Sr.; Jessica Banialis, 1B, Sr.

* Who’s new: Amber Anderson, OF/P, So. (.425, four HRs, 20 runs, nine steals); Kellie Tonaskovic, INF/OF/P, So.; Katie O’ Leary, OF, Jr.; Kylie Maloy, P, Sr.; Abby Maloy, C/INF, Jr.; Dana Bunting, P, Jr.; Nicole Pratl, INF/OF, Sr.

* Outlook: Though new to the high school game, incoming Pride coach Scott Sobol brings more than 15 years of fast-pitch travel softball coaching experience with him. And he’s surrounding himself with varsity assistants and JV coaches who are schooled in either fast-pitch or college softball. Sobol inherits a club that welcomes back a healthy amount of experience and possesses a fair degree of depth -- he considers the Pride two-deep at several positions and points to five different girls as possible contributors in the circle. One of them is sophomore Amber Anderson, whose only season at Mt. Assisi resulted in a .425 average and four homers. Three other newcomers are also transfer students.

* Coach’s comments: “I’m very excited about this program. Queen of Peace was kind of down for the past couple of years in softball, struggling to win games and compete, but I believe with the new culture that we’re bringing to the athletic program in general we’ve assembled a team that can compete in the [Girls Catholic Athletic] conference this season.

“I’m really excited about our sticks -- I think we’re going to hit pretty well as a club. We feature speed and power. I think people are going to be a little surprised by Queen of Peace this season and our ability to be competitive. I think we’re going to thrive.” -- Sobol

RICHARDS

2014 Record: 22-9.

Head coach: Julie Folliard.

* Who’s gone: Jordan Battels, Victoria Nemec, Molly Pohrebny, Andrea Stengle, Brittany Stengle, Sara Tobin.

* Who’s back: Emily Wetzel, INF/C, Sr. (.483, .560 on-base pct., 1.022 slugging pct., 11 HRs, 40 RBI, 34 runs); Sara Kisiak, P/INF, Jr. (17-7, 2.62 ERA, 117 Ks, 29 walks; .458, .577 on-base pct. .696 slugging pct., 23 RBI); Kaitlyn Fetchko, INF, Sr.; Samantha Waller, INF/OF, Sr.; Lauryn McManus, INF, Jr.; Abby Gentile, INF/OF, Sr.; Hailey Czerwinski, OF/C, Sr.; Savanah Julian, C/3B.OF, Jr.          

* Who’s new: Takesha Powell, OF, Jr.; Becky Wujcik, UTL, So.; Jessica Hayes, C/OF, So.; Meghan Murphy, UTL, Jr.; Bri Senodenos, UTL, Jr.; Katelyn Flahive, P/1B, Fr.; Kelly Lind, OF/SS, Jr.; Gabby Murphy, OF/UTL, Jr.

* Outlook: The Bulldogs will look to build on last season’s regional championship with six starters from that team back in the fold. Richards will no doubt miss Molly Pohrebny and Sara Tobin, but the return of power-hitting Emily Wetzel and South Suburban Conference Red Player of the Year Sara Kiziak ensure another strong offensive presence. Veteran coach Julie Folliard is also counting on third-year varsity player Kaitlyn Fetchko for leadership. Fetchko, who earned all-conference recognition last spring, can hit from either side of the plate and is one of the better defensive third basemen around.

The Bulldogs are seeking a fifth consecutive divisional crown, which would equal the program’s longest championship stretch. Richards was a first-place finisher each season between 1998 and 2002. But neither Folliard nor her girls want to stop there. Another regional title -- and ideally much more -- would suit the entire bunch of Bulldogs just fine.

* Coach's comments: “We return a core of talented and smart players and also added many new players. We will need strong leadership from our returning group to maximize our potential. Knowing this group of seniors, I think their leadership will rise and drive our team to another successful season for the Richards Bulldogs.” -- Folliard

SANDBURG

2014 Record: 24-16.

Head coach: Jim Fabianski.

* Who’s gone: Sarah Herold, Karli McLaughlin, Emily Griskell, Brooke Heimerl, Cierra Adamus, Caroline Kuzel.

* Who’s back: Katie Krzus, 1B, Sr. (.412, seven HRs, 32 RBI, 30 runs); Brianna Soltis, C/2B, Jr. (.359, five HRs, 30 RBI); Kristen Zarate, OF, Sr.; Madeline Hanley, OF, Sr.; Kasi Sanders, IF, Sr.; Maddie Poole, P, Sr.

* Who’s new: Ashley Sood, INF, Fr.; Mikaela Arrendondo P/IF/OF, Jr.; Niki Saviano, P, Jr.; Paige Chladek, C/1B, Jr.; Dani Amador, INF, So.; Sam Coffel, OF, So.; Taylor Udarbe, INF, Jr.; Maggie Lehr, INF/OF, Jr.; Brit Beveridge OF, Jr.

* Outlook: The Eagles were one game away from their second Class 4A championship in four years last spring, a run toward the top that many didn’t expect. But Sandburg put everything together in the latter part of the regular season and got on a timely roll. Sarah Herold’s pitching was a big part of the Eagles’ success, but so too was the potent bat work of Katie Krzus and Brianna Soltis -- the former was largely responsible for Sandburg getting past SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue rival Lincoln-Way East in the state semifinals as she went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBI. Those two players are among six returnees from the runner-up squad. Jim Fabianski, who was chosen as this paper’s softball Coach of the Year in both 2013 and 2014, is hoping Maddie Poole can step in for Herold and become Sandburg’s latest pitching ace.

* Coach’s comments: “We are going into this season with a positive outlook. We have a core of players returning and many new faces from which we hope to see significant contributions. Last year’s team made a memorable run at state and a good group of girls who are back this season experienced that run. They definitely have a goal to shoot for.” -- Fabianski

SHEPARD

2014 Record: 20-10.

Head coach: Kelsey Clifford.

* Who’s gone: Melissa Kelly, Stephanie Brand.

* Who’s back: Breanna Graffeo, 3B, Sr. (.495, 34 runs. .906 fielding pct.); Skylor Hilger, SS, Jr. (.471, 29 runs); Bryanna Cross, C, So (.385); Heather O’Kelly, CF, Jr. (.575); Jalyn Stepney, SS, Jr. (.473, seven HRs); Sarah Wedster, LF, Sr. (.410); Jenna Huseinga: IF, So.; Kaitlyn Blanton, RF, Jr. 

* Who’s new: Erin Buric, P, Fr.; Gabby Graffeo P, So.; April Larson, P, Jr.

* Outlook: With two consecutive 20-win seasons under their belts, the Astros are eager for more and positioned to get it as eight players from the 2014 club return. Twelve of Shepard’s victories came in South Suburban Conference play and it could make a serious run at the Red Division title this spring. Coach Kelsey Clifford has definitely infused the Astros with a positive attitude, not surprising in light of their impressive 73-45 ledger during her four years in charge, and they should have the talent on hand to keep things moving forward.

            Breanna Graffeo, an all-area and all-conference selection as a junior, is Shepard’s big gun. Not only did she compile a sterling .495 batting average and score 34 runs, Graffeo was also an above-average defensive player at the hot corner, as attested to by her .906 fielding percentage. Jalyn Stepney earned all-conference recognition after batting .473, swatting seven homers and leading the team in RBI, Bryanna Cross offers a veteran presence behind the dish and Sarah Wedster will serve as team captain. Skylor Hilger, a top-flight gymnast during the winter, brings athleticism and an agility that will benefit Shepard on both offense and defense and Heather O’Kelly should be an ideal leadoff hitter as well as a competent center fielder. O’Kelly has good speed and a strong arm.

* Coach’s comments: “We’re looking forward to a good spring. We have a great deal of talent this year [and] the girls are looking forward to capitalizing on our veteran experience. We plan on utilizing our athleticism, experience and solid skill sets to push through.

“Breanna’s leadership and her ability as a catalyst at the plate are vital while Jalyn will move runners around and drive runs in. Breanna will share her veteran experience with a core of young pitching newcomers. Experienced outfielders are a gift, and we’re looking forward to Heather, Sarah and Kaitlyn robbing [teams of] hits and stopping runners.” -- Clifford

STAGG

2014 Record: 3-20.

Head coach: Sarah Bryers.

* Who’s gone: Emily Abbene, Maggie Hynes, Stephanie Lorenz, Briana Minet

* Who’s back: Amanda Collins, 3B/OF/C, Sr.; Noor Elmosa, INF, Jr..; Kyla Frain, SS/3B, Sr.; Stacey Lorenz, OF, So.; Chrissy Magnuson, OF, Jr.; Lexi Minet, OF/P, Sr.; Mia Moustakas, P/3B, Jr.; Sam Owens, 1B/C, Sr.; Abbey Regan, C, Jr.; Brianna Serriella, INF, So.

* Who’s new: Amanda Bell, P, Sr.; Kaley Tsenes, OF, Jr.; Heather Watson UTL, Jr.

* Outlook: New coach Sarah Bryers has a tall task ahead of her as she takes over the reins of a program that endured one of its toughest campaigns. However, 10 players who’d like nothing better than to put the disappointment of 2014 behind them are back and obviously not short of motivation. Only four of those 10 are seniors, which may account for at least some of last year’s struggles as adjusting to varsity competition can be overwhelming for very young players. The Chargers pleased Bryers with the preseason work ethic they demonstrated and she will try to keep them firmly focused on the here and now, rightly figuring that gradual progress is the best method to eventually re-establish Stagg as a force within the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue.

* Coach’s comments: “It’s really been great so far. The girls have a lot of goals to improve. We struggled a bit last year, but we’re a year older and hopefully a year better. We have people in positions that they’re comfortable in and they’re working hard.

“I really think the seniors are trying to prove something in their final season, and the rest of the girls look up to them. We’re working little by little in getting better every single game [by] reflecting on previous performances in order to improve in the next game.” -- Bryers