Softball notes: Newark’s Kodi Rizzo, Danica Peshia make for dynamite connection, combine on 16-strikeout gem

Finley Anderson the ‘total package’ in center for Oswego East; Oswego goes 4-1 in Alabama trip

Newark’s Kodi Rizzo (20) delivers a pitch against Batavia during a 2023 softball game at Batavia High School.

Kodi Rizzo is coming off one of her best-ever starts, a career-high 16-strikeout 3-0 shutout of Morris on March 28, but the Newark senior can’t take all the credit.

Few pitchers are complete without a catcher they trust.

And not many have the connection that Rizzo does with her catcher, fellow Newark senior Danica Peshia.

The two girls have played softball together since they were 8 years old. It started as teammates in recreational ball, and from there they played travel together on the Redhawks until that team was disbanded. Rizzo and Peshia didn’t play together for six months until Peshia joined her friend with the Naperville Diamonds travel program.

“It is one thing to have the connection on the field, but you have to have it off the field, too. She is one of my closest friends,” said Rizzo, a Wisconsin-Stevens Point commit. “She knows where I like to pitch it in different situations. She knows what works for me and what I like to throw. I can trust her to call the right pitches because she just knows me. It is more comfortable to have somebody back there to know I like to throw it. She reads my mind.”

Peshia catches Rizzo in games, and she catches her in practice.

In the summer, on days that they don’t have either a game or a practice the two girls will go to a field and just hit and work out together.

“We do everything together,” Rizzo said. “It is all about the trust.”

Rizzo and Peshia were key players on Newark’s 2022 team that took fourth place in the state in Class 1A, and on last year’s team that reached a sectional final.

Rizzo in 32 innings this spring has yet to allow an earned run in the circle with 63 strikeouts. With the graduation of fellow pitchers Kaitlyn Schofield and Taylor Kruser, she’s taking on more innings. In 40 plate appearances, she’s batting .440 with a .650 on-base percentage with six of her 11 hits for extra bases and seven runs batted in. Peshia, meanwhile, is batting .545 with seven extra-base hits and 20 RBIs.

Newark is 6-1, its lone loss to defending Class 1A state champion St. Bede.

“I genuinely think, losing the players that we did from last year, that we came out better than I thought we would,” Rizzo said. “Even the [9-7] loss to St. Bede, we put up some runs. What killed us was our defense, but we fought hard. It showed us that we can go far. I think we can make it to the sectional championship at least.”

The 3-0 win over Morris was significant in that Newark’s first and only regular season loss last year came to that team.

“I worked a lot in the offseason, a lot more on lifting to gain velocity and worked a lot more on my control for spin pitches, and I knew going into it that Morris was a good hitting team and that I would have to place the ball well and in different spots,” Rizzo said. “My catcher did a great job of that and calling my pitches.”

Oswego East's Finley Anderson (15) catches a fly ball for an out against St. Charles East during a softball game at Oswego East High School on Wednesday, March 13, 2024.

Oswego East’s ‘powerhouse’ in center

Oswego East last year graduated one of the elite center fielders around with three-year starter Mia Corres moving on to Rose State College.

But the Wolves haven’t missed a beat with Finley Anderson.

The Minnesota State commit moved from the corner outfield to center and has picked up right where Corres left off. Anderson is batting .727 with an .818 on-base percentage and 12 runs scored for the 5-2 Wolves, who are coming off a 3-1 trip to Tennessee in which they scored a total of 41 runs. In Oswego East’s season opener against St. Charles East, Anderson flashed some serious leather with a number of running catches out in center.

“She is a powerhouse, a total package,” Oswego East coach Sarah Davies said.

Anderson brings consistency, stability and speed to the outfield. At the plate, she can beat opponents in a myriad ways. In a win on Monday, Anderson had three hits, and two of them were on bunts. But she can also hit for power. Anderson had 52 hits as a junior.

“Whatever I ask her to do, she does it,” Davies said. “She does what she needs to do, she is a respected kid and she is so positive. She lifts everybody up.”

Anderson deflects that praise to her younger teammates that she believes have made her a better person and a better player.

“At times I am quite serious and extremely dialed into the game,” Anderson said. “In the outfield they really uplift me, get me to do the little celebrations, loosen me up and joke with me. They really help me with that.”

Anderson doesn’t care where she plays in the field, as long as she plays – but admitted that she’s really “in her zone” in center field.

“I definitely have to cover more ground and I love that,” Anderson said. “It is my responsibility to be more vocal than I was on the corners. If I’m not telling myself where I’m going it can lead to simple mistakes.”

Anderson said her speed has always benefited her, a saver when she doesn’t get the best hit or get the biggest jump in the outfield. She’s worked to complement that speed with strength. She works out at D1 Training Fox Valley in Aurora every day, heavy lifting three times a week. She started lifting in middle school with her dad in the basement at home.

“I know I’m not the biggest girl on the field,” Anderson said. “But I really focus in the offseason on building myself up so I can use the body I have to take the ball as far as I can.”

Oswego goes 4-1 in Alabama

Oswego had a successful spring break trip to Gulf Shores, Ala., going 4-1. The Panthers went 3-0 on the first day, the highlight a 2-1 on a walk-off squeeze bunt by Kiyah Chavez to score Bella Lisle to beat Springville, currently the 12th-ranked team in Alabama. Oswego’s only loss of the trip came to Alexandria, Ala., 10-8, but in that game Jaelynn Anthony slugged two home runs and Chavez also went deep.

Oswego to dedicate field

Oswego on Saturday, April 6 will hold a dedication of Panther Memorial Field in honor of Amanda Stanton and DeAnn Albright. Family and team introductions will be held at 9:45 a.m. followed by the varsity game against Wheaton Warrenville South at 10 a.m.