Softball Player of the Year: Julia Larson did ‘whatever needs to be done’ to lead St. Charles North

Illinois State recruit batted .520 with six home runs, 45 RBIs, led from her position at third base

St. Charles North’s Julia Larson throws to first during a Class 4A St. Charles North Sectional semifinal against Fremd on Tuesday, May 30, 2023.

The reciting of Julia Larson’s statistical slash line isn’t deep enough to tell the story of just how impactful a softball player she became.

Larson, St. Charles North’s third baseman, finished the season with a .520 batting average, 1.374 on-base plus slugging percentage, six home runs and 45 RBIs in her final bow of an impressive high school career as a two-sport standout.

One, instead, could’ve noticed Larson subtly drifting away from her defensive position at third to give a word of encouragement to refocus her pitcher after a walk.

Add in the times when the Illinois State recruit, before returning to the dugout after a rare popout, would give the next batter a brief scouting report on the changeup or inside pitch. Maybe even add in mentoring a player three years younger than her while in the heat of the game for a better defensive positioning and better chance at an inning-ending play.

Pick the situation and there’s arguably not many plays Larson, the 2023 Kane County Chronicle Softball Player of the Year, wasn’t ready for.

“She can do whatever needs to be done,” St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said. “On the field, and she can lead. She’s just very dimensional ... bunting, hitting for power, [fielding] ... she’s that versatile. She’s that versatile as a leader as well. She knows when to speak up, when to be firm, she knows when to be a listener.

St. Charles North's Maddie Hernandez (2) congratulates Julia Larson (4) on scoring against Lake Park during a game on Friday, April 21, 2023.

“She’s impressive. She’s as impressive a player as we’ve ever had and for me – and I hate making it about me, it’s not. It’s about her. I’ve coached three sports for 20 plus years: football was 20 years, basketball and softball over 20. She’s as memorable a person I’ve ever worked with.”

As Poulin sees it, Larson “thinks like a coach.”

“She’s always thinking like a coach when the game is going on,” Poulin said. “She gets to know her teammate and then she knows when they need something or when they need to be left alone. The last two seasons, you just watch her and [senior pitcher Ava Goettel] has told me she’s said things that get me refocused or they calmed me down. She knows what to say and when to say it. It’s her instinct as a winner, a leader and as a teammate.”

Larson said she’s followed the lead of those who have mentored her over the years.

“I’ve obviously been playing softball for a really long time and I’ve always had great coaches who have guided me and given me tips that have helped my game in certain situations,” Larson said. “When in play, I try to give that to the younger girls.”

Playing alongside freshman shortstop Ginger Ritter last season was one example. Being Goettel’s trusty defensive savant was another.

“I tried to guide her and make her the best I could so I can pass on my knowledge to her,” Larson said. “And she can help other girls, too. As far as it goes with Ava, [she and I] had played softball for maybe eight to 10 years, ... In those situations, I can cool her down.”

An Illinois Coaches Association Class 4A First Team All-State selection, Larson was a perfect 17 for 17 in stolen bases.

St. Charles North’s Julia Larson makes a catch in the infield during a Class 4A St. Charles North Sectional final against Lake Park on Friday, June 2, 2023.

Larson was one of the centerpieces for St. Charles North’s first softball state title in 2022. The game that sent the North Stars to state, a 6-3 win over Whitney Young in the supersectional round, is a game that won’t soon leave the memory bank.

“We had a plan. We were going to make the pitcher throw as many pitches as possible,” Larson said. “We were going to hold them with our defense. Everything came true. Every single thing that we put on the list that we had to do in that game, we did. That, to me, was showing our team chemistry [and] the hard work we put in. Finally, what we worked for was paying off.”

The North Stars cashed in on their dance with destiny.

“We all believed and I think that is a big part of softball,” Larson said. “Not everything is going to go your way. Sometimes, not miracles, but things go your way because you believe in it. [That season], we were like all right, we’re down at state ... we might as well just win.’

“We all just started believing. That was the main message I would take: Believing in your teammates and believing the process is how you succeed.”