Softball: Kane County Chronicle 2024 season preview capsules

St. Charles North's Paige Murray (15) pitches against Lake Park in St. Charles during a 2023 game.

The high school softball season is underway. Here are previews of teams in the Kane County Chronicle coverage area.

Aurora Central Catholic

Coach: Mark Pasqualini

Last season’s record: 18-11 overall, 7-5 in the conference

Top returning players: Amelia Lohrey, sr., OF; Natalie Sanchez, sr., 2B; Sophia Delgado, jr., C/SS; Ashley Moore, jr., 1B; Kate Gambro, jr., P/UT; Morgan Vaghy, so., IF; Corina Miller, so., P/IF; Jessica Pieckham, jr., OF; Charlotte Brummel, jr., P/1B

Top new player: Abby Gambro, fr., OF

Worth noting: The Chargers return their entire team. The 2023 group had no seniors. With another year of growth and maturity and a still relatively young team with just two seniors, fourth-year coach Pasqualini expects the Chargers to improve. Delgado, second team All-State last season, hit .491 with 42 hits, third team All-Stater Moore hit .446, third team All-Stater Gambro hit .414 with 42 runs scored and posted a 7-5 record in the circle and third team All-Stater Vaghy hit .462 with 36 hits and two home runs. Lohrey, who hit .386 with three homers and 27 RBIs last season, is a four-year starter and Embry-Riddle commit. Sanchez is committed to Wisconsin Lutheran. Miller posted a 7-3 record with 70 strikeouts in 60 innings last season, Pieckham hit .435 and Brummel hit three homers and posted a 4-3 record with 46 strikeouts over 41 innings. “Moving from the Metro Suburban to the Girls Catholic League will be yet another challenge for our team,” Pasqualini said. “We hope to prepare the team to make a deep conference run and potentially a run in the state playoffs.”


Coach: Torry Pryor

Last season’s record: 5-29 overall, 1-13 DuKane Conference

Top returning players: Emily Reagan, sr., P/IF; Gwen Shouse, jr., SS; Grace Sartain, jr., 3B/2B; Bella Zagotta, sr., 2B/3B; Eleni Vatianou, sr., IF; Adriana Platt, sr., OF; Reagan Payne, sr., 1B; Jordan VanderLuitgaren, sr., OF; Lilly Willuweit, sr., C/IF/OF

Top new players: Amira Mendoza, so., OF/C; Mackenzie Krauch, so., OF/P; Teagan Sullivan, so., OF/C

Worth noting: Millikin commit Reagan, Shouse, Sartain and Zagotta are returning starters for a Bulldogs team that lost to Yorkville in a regional semifinal. Shouse, an all-conference pick last season, hit .378 as a sophomore. Sartain hit .326. “We have some amazing returning players who are ready to compete this season,” Pryor said. “With our consistent pitching, solid defense and senior leadership, we have the opportunity to perform well this season.”

Burlington Central

Coach: Bill Morrow

Last season’s record: 9-20 overall, 5-13 Fox Valley Conference

Top returning players: Anna Sanders, sr., IF; Kayla Covey, sr., IF; Francesca Winkelhake, sr., IF; Emily Rafferty, sr., P; Danielle Durkel, sr., OF; Makayla Larson, sr., OF; Addisyn Peteren, jr., P; Olivia Sutton, jr., C; Allie Botkin, jr., P/OF; Antonina Garcia, jr., 1B

Top new player: Mei Shirokawa, fr., SS/C

Worth noting: New coach Morrow is Burlington Central’s third coach in four years, but he’s hardly new to the softball scene. Morrow is president of the Wasco Diamonds, one of the state’s most successful softball programs. His oldest daughter, Abby, was on the 2009 Rockets team that went to the Class 3A state tournament and earned the best finish in program history. Bill Morrow will look to return Burlington Central to its winning ways. The Rockets last won a regional eight years ago. During the program’s best stretch from 2005 to 2009, it averaged 31 wins a season. Leading the returning players is Sanders, a Minnesota-Duluth recruit, four-year varsity player and third-team All-Stater last spring who hit .494 with 43 hits. Morrow said Shirokawa is a freshman to watch, a four-tool player who can hit, field, throw and run. “We want minimal mistakes with maximum effort, make every game a game,” Morrow said.


Coach: Ann Plackett

Last season’s record: 7-25 overall, 1-13 DuKane Conference

Top returning players: Ally Ward, sr., OF; Katilyn Sprague, jr., SS/OF; Kat Cerwin, jr., 3B; Nora Faulkner, sr., P; Sloane Fisher, jr., 2B/OF; Megan O’Connor, so., C; Elise Strohm, sr., P; Hailey Hornick, sr., 1B, C; Reagan Krohe, sr., 1B/3B

Worth noting: Six seniors return for the Vikings this season, three of whom are committed to play in college. Faulkner is headed to Benedictine, Strohm to Grinnell and Hornick to Clarke College. “Stronger outlook this year for hitting. Maturation and discipline in the batter’s box,” Plackett said. “Experience on the field should yield positive results and hoping for a stronger performance overall in both conference and nonconference games.”


Coach: Madison Mikos

Last season’s record: 17-17

Top returning player: Brynn Woods, so., P

Top new players: None provided.

Worth noting: The Knights won a regional title for the eighth year in a row last season to finish with a .500 record. Kaneland lost to Sycamore in a Class 3A Belvidere North Sectional semifinal. A lot of key players graduated from that team. Woods was a standout last year as a freshman and figures to be a key player this year.

– Eddie Carifio

St. Charles East's Hayden Sujack (21) drives in a run on a double against Oswego East during a softball game at Oswego East High School on Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

St. Charles East

Coach: Jarod Gutesha

Last season’s record: 17-11

Top returning players: Grace Hautzinger, sr., P; Hayden Sujack, so., C; Sam Gaca, sr., C; Katelyn Morgan, sr.; Sam Beers, sr.; Lexi Majkszak, so.; Alysa Price, jr.; Madelyn Royer, sr.; Holly Smith, jr.; Makayla Van Dinther, so.; Addison Wolf, jr.

Top new player: Eden Corcoran, jr., UT

Worth noting: The Saints have 11 players returning with significant varsity experience. Sujack was second team All-State as a freshman with 14 homers, a .412 average, 1.369 OPS, 40 hits and eight doubles. Rollins recruit Hautzinger, who was third team All-State, is back in the circle after posting a 10-6 record with 193 strikeouts, including an 18-strikeout perfect game, and 2.43 ERA over 121 innings last year. Gaca, committed to Maryville, also was third team All-State last season, batting .388 with four homers, 24 RBIs and 11 runs scored. Morgan, committed to Pensacola State College, was an all-conference pick after batting .385 with three homers, 11 RBIs and 12 runs scored. “We return all of our pitching [Hautzinger, Majkszak, VanDinther] and catching [Gaca, Sujack] from last year so we should be competitive throughout the conference season as well as during the postseason,” Gutesha said.

St. Charles North

Coach: Tom Poulin

Last season’s record: 22-8 overall, 12-2 DuKane Conference

Top returning players: Maddie Hernandez, sr., 2B/DP; Paige Murray, jr., P/1B; Mack Patterson, jr., OF/DH; Ginger Ritter, so., SS; Ivy Gleeson, jr., OF; Haley Nelson, sr., OF/SS; Skyla Ritter, sr., C/3B; Abby Zawadzki, so., P/1B

Top new players: Ella Heimbuch, fr., C/SS/OF; Faith Maleski, fr., 1B/3B; Julianna Kouba, fr., 3B/OF; Addie Umlauf, jr., 2B/SS; Annamarie Lamb, jr., 3B/1B; Lauren Seyller, jr., P; Sophia Olech, sr., 1B

Worth noting: The North Stars, who lost in a sectional title game last season, must replace eight graduated seniors, including 2023 Kane County Chronicle Softball Player of the Year Julia Larson, who left quite a legacy with the program, including the 2022 Class 4A state championship and back-to-back conference titles in 2022 and 2023. “The challenge is to fill those holes,” said Poulin, who has compiled a 267-98 record at St. Charles North. “We have confidence in our leadership and talent level throughout the program, so it is an exciting time for us.” Leading the returners is all-conference pitcher Murray, who posted a 7-2 record and 3.41 ERA with 83 strikeouts over 71.2 innings last year and hit .375 at the plate. Anchoring the lineup is Hernandez, committed to Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She hit .349 last year with 30 hits, six doubles, four homers, 22 RBIs and 24 runs scored. Also back is Patterson, who hit .404 with 36 hits, eight doubles, two homers, 28 RBIs and 26 runs scored, and Ritter, who hit .317 with 26 hits, seven doubles, 13 RBIs and 21 runs scored as a freshman. “We could be young and inexperienced in some spots, but our returning players are effective leaders who know what is expected,” Poulin said. “The culture is strong. As soon as we figure out how to be great teammates, we will grow into the team we want to be. We expect to challenge for the conference championship, but understand how tough this league is. It’s never easy.”

St. Francis

Coach: Ralph Remus

Last season’s record: 21-13

Top returning players: Natalie Doyle, sr., 3B; Meghan Suess, sr., P; Maggie Stewart, jr., P/1B; Lauren Kennedy, so., SS

Worth noting: The Spartans won 21 games and a regional championship last season while starting five freshmen. St. Francis lost in a sectional semifinal. Eight starters return on what is still a young team. Doyle hit .438 last season with eight doubles, four triples and four homers. Suess posted a 3.09 ERA and struck out 105 batters. Stewart hit .411 and posted a 2.52 ERA with 92 strikeouts. Kennedy hit .487 with 15 doubles, seven triples and five homers as a freshman. “Pitching is experienced and defense should be very sound. I think the offense will continue to improve over the course of the season,” said Remus, in his 26th year. “New Catholic League conference looks like the schedule will be a little tougher this year.”

West Aurora

Coach: Randy Hayslett

Last season’s record: 8-20 overall, 3-11 Southwest Prairie West

Top returning players: Sara Tarr, jr., SS; Katelyn Serafin, sr., P; Mia Malczyk, sr., CF; Kenzie Fraus, sr., C/OF; Ionicca Rivera, sr., 1B/3B; Vianca Juarez, sr., 3B; Keira Hayton, jr., 2B/OF; Diana Vargas, sr., 2B/3B; Brooke Roberts, sr., P/OF; Aailyah McCall, sr., OF

Top new players: Macie Spenny, fr., C/UT; Gracie Del Toro, fr., 2B/OF; Bella Marzullo, fr., UT; Ally Lambert, fr., P/1B

Worth noting: Tarr and Serafin headline nine players returning for the Blackhawks, who lost to Wheaton Warrenville South in a regional final. Tarr, a Miami of Ohio recruit, hit .495 with 13 doubles, four triples, 17 RBIs and 12 stolen bases out of the leadoff spot and was a second team All-State pick. Serafin was limited to 18.1 innings last year, posting a 3-1 record with 27 strikeouts while hitting .364 with four homers, 10 doubles and 17 RBIs. Hayslett said she’s looking good this spring. Aurora commit Malczyk, a four-year starter, and three-year starter Hayton also return. “I expect us to have a very sound defense as we return a starting infield along with Malczk in center field,” Hayslett said. “We’ll need to replace Alyssa Perkin’s bat in the lineup. We will be looking to find some offensive consistency and will need to reshuffle our lineup a bit.”