Elliott Sanders seems to have two things in common with Kayla Richardson and Nikki Johnston.
The three girls make up St. Charles East’s starting outfield.
And all three are speedy.
“We are all pretty fast, considering,” said Sanders, St. Charles East’s senior center fielder. “We take advantage of a bobbled ball, a missed throw. We like taking as many bases as we can.”
That aggressive approach is one reason the Saints, Class 4A state runners-up in the last high school season of 2019, are off to an 11-3 start to this spring.
Sanders, a spot starter in 2019, has seven steals to date while hitting .333 with 12 runs batted in and 10 runs scored. Richardson, a senior left fielder who was a call up as a pinch runner in 2019, has 11 steals to go with a robust .512 batting average, six doubles, 12 RBIs and 16 runs scored. Johnson, a sophomore in right field, already has a whopping 18 steals while hitting .500 with 11 RBIs, 23 runs scored and five extra-base hits.
Sanders said the Saints appear to have their own discretion for the green light on the base paths moreso than in years past, and she likes it.
“I feel like in years past it’s kind of been more of a coach’s call,” Sanders said. “Now it’s more of an individual thing. If you feel you can make it there, you take the base. I like to be in charge of my own running.”
Richardson, like Sanders one of six Saints’ seniors who all will play in college, was called up to varsity her freshman and sophomore years. She relishes the opportunity to reciprocate what older girls did for her in serving as a role model.
“It’s cool that I’m a starter on the team and able to be a role model for the younger girls,” Richardson said. “For sure all three of us outfielders have great range and talk really well. We’re able to steal bases and that helps contribute to games we win.”
Johnson would have made the team as a freshman last spring. She was quick to agree that speed is a big element in her game.
“Definitely, especially since I’m a slapper. Speed never slumps,” Johnston said. “It’s a big thing for me, definitely. If we can get a good read coach is all for us taking the extra base. When we can get a good read, go for it.”
While Sanders missed a full high school season, she hardly took a break from softball. She traveled almost every weekend in the summer and fall playing with her Chicago Cheetahs travel team, and she practiced four days a week.
“Don’t have time to get rusty,” she said.
But two years between high school seasons is a long time.
“Oh my gosh, the last time we played it was two years ago, a lot has changed,” said Sanders, who is playing collegiately at Saint Francis in Pennsylvania while studying in biology with plans to become a physician’s assistant. “I almost switched positions on my travel team, learning third base as a secondary position, spent majority of the fall on that. It was definitely an adjustment from only playing outfield.”
Richardson is clearly making the adjustment on her high school team from a girl relied on as a runner to growing into one of the Saints’ best hitters.
“This year, I went in really relaxed,” said Richardson, who is headed to Union College in Kentucky in the fall. “It’s my last year here, I’m going to make the best of it. In the fall I did have a slump, I worked in the offseason on shifting my weight back, getting my weight down. This year I’m trusting myself. I know I have the fast hands and capacity to hit the ball. Every time I’m in the box I take a deep breath and visualize where I’m going to hit it.”
Johnston was naturally upset to miss out on her freshman softball season, but she’s looking forward to helping the Saints get back to where they were in 2019.
“I took the lost year as an opportunity to focus on my weaknesses and come back even stronger,” Johnston said. “I’ve done a lot more conditioning, I’m a lot stronger and a lot faster. I have developed overall as a player with my knowledge of the game, especially my hitting.”
St. Charles North on quarantine, back May 13
St. Charles North’s softball team is currently on a COVID-19 quarantine. The North Stars have had four conference games postponed since last Friday – including a crosstown matchup with St. Charles East – and have games for next Monday and Wednesday also postponed on their schedule.
North Stars coach Tom Poulin said that his team will resume games on March 13, at Wheaton North, and in a busy schedule will have a game scheduled for every day through the regular season’s conclusion May 29 except Sundays.
“In order to make up all of the conference games, we had to cancel a couple non-conference games, but were able to keep a couple too,” Poulin said. “We will be very busy once we start again. We are all looking forward to it.”
Poulin likes how his players have responded to clearly less than ideal circumstances.
“This team became very united quickly and I can’t wait to see all that they can accomplish as we move forward,” he said. “The non-stop schedule will only make things more memorable and also highlight our depth.”
Kaneland rebounds from rare loss, headed to Marengo event
Kaneland (9-2) rebounded from a rare loss, 3-0 on Ottawa Wednesday, to beat Morris 8-3 on Thursday. Olivia Ortegel went 3-for-4 at the plate, and winning pitcher Grace Algrim allowed four hits and struck out six over four shutout innings.
The Knights will be competing in the Marengo Tournament this weekend, with a 5 p.m. game Friday scheduled against Montini.