Softball: Suburban Life 2024 season preview capsules

Downers Grove North's Ava Gusel (6) delivers a pitch against Oswego during a softball game at Oswego High School.

The high school softball season is underway. Here are previews of teams in the Suburban Life coverage area.


Coach: Jerry Schilf

Last season’s record: 25-12, 4-8 East Suburban Catholic Conference

Top returning players: Nina Pesare, sr., OF; Gianna Horejs, sr., 2B; Angela Horejs, jr., SS; Gianna Cunningham, so., P; Bridget Chapman, sr., 3B; Alex O’Rourke, sr., P

Worth noting: Eight of nine starters return from a team that took third place in the state in Class 3A last season. Three freshmen will compete for positions on the mound, catcher and utility. Benet has been moved up to Class 4A for this year’s postseason. Two-time all-conference pick Pesare, a lefty slapper and UIC recruit who hit .474 last year heading into the state finals, leads the returning starters. Cunningham had the game-winning hit and was the winning pitcher in the Class 3A third-place game last year. Chapman hit .395 with seven homers heading into last year’s state finals.

Downers Grove North

Coach: Eric Landschoot

Last season’s record: 20-9-1, 10-2 West Suburban Silver

Top returning players: Maya Rodriguez, sr., 3B/C; Ava Gusel, sr., P; Ashlynn Durkin, jr., P/1B; Sophia Barofsky, jr., IF/C; Sam Lehnherr, jr., IF/OF; Avery Perkins, sr., 1B; Ella Bonk, so., IF/OF; Cali Bailey, jr., OF; Marissa Collazo, sr., P

Worth noting: The Trojans return everyone from last year’s team, including two Division I commits in the circle. Gusel, a DePaul recruit, posted a 7-4 record with a 1.72 ERA and 101 strikeouts last season. Florida Atlantic commit Durkin went 9-4 with a 1.28 ERA and 165 strikeouts and hit .387 with 17 RBIs and 13 runs scored. Anchoring the lineup is Rodriguez, a University of Indianapolis commit who batted .443 with five doubles, two triples, 21 RBIs and 25 runs scored. Barofsky, Durkin, Lehnherr, Perkins, Bonk and Bailey all hit over .300. “With three strong pitchers and a strong returning offense, the Trojans should be able to compete with the best this season,” Lanschoot said. “With a strong 2024 schedule, we are confident and excited to show everyone what we can do with our pitching staff, our solid team defense and an offense that should put up some runs.”

Downers Grove South

Coach: Jim Cushing

Last season’s record: 18-9, 12-0 West Suburban Gold

Top returning players: Ella Cushing, sr., 1B/P; Grace Taylor, sr., SS; Julia Colorato, sr., OF; Addison Yurchak, so., 3B/OF; Gabby Ruchniewicz, jr., 2B

Top new players: Victoria Colorato, so., OF/3B; Alyssa Borowski, jr., C/OF; Ella Kardazke, jr., 1B

Worth noting: Cushing leads a group of returning players who hope to compete for another conference championship. The Illinois recruit hit .477 with 11 homers and 45 RBIs last year and also pitches for the Mustangs. Also back is Appalachian State commit Taylor, who hit .466 with 33 RBIs, Ruchniewicz, who hit .407, and Carroll commit Colorato. “We need to play solid defense and hit in order to advance in the postseason,” coach Cushing said.


Coach: Valerie Jisa

Last season’s record: 16-15

Top returning players: Caity Barganski, jr., C; Madelyn Entler, sr., 3B; Kailey Janda, jr., OF; Sophie Stone, sr., P

Worth noting: Jisa, a Riverside resident who served as an assistant the previous two years, takes over the head coaching duties from Bryan Hoffman. “We expect to bring a strong offensive lineup with more speed and movement,” she said. “We have solid confidence in our defensive play and our pitching looks robust.” Stone, an Oberlin College commit, headlines a staff that includes junior Leah Lowery and senior Ellie Kolb, who’s also capable of playing multiple positions. Fenwick won a Class 3A regional championship last season

– Melvin Tate

Glenbard East

Coach: Dawn Chantos

Last season’s record: 12-15, 8-10 Upstate Eight

Top returning players: Sophia Opila, sr., OF; Missy Saldana, jr., 3B-OF; Ally Block sr., C-OF, Maddie Howe, sr., 2B

Top new players: Claire Bolda, fr., P; Althea Fitzgerald, fr., UT-P; Ally Amrhein, fr., C-3B; Lilly Carver, fr., SS

Worth noting: Chantos is back in the dugout after a four-year hiatus spent watching her daughter, Ashlee, play for St. Charles North, earn all-state first-team honors and win a state title. “I am excited to be back,” she said. “I am blessed to have watched my daughter, but I did miss coaching and it is great to be back.” Opila (.536 batting average, 12 RBIs, 29 runs, 11 steals) and Saldana (.506, 40 hits, 10 doubles, two homers, 14 RBIs, 31 runs scored) are returning all-UEC picks. Saldana, one of eight starters back for the Rams, is headed to Purdue-Ft. Wayne to continue her softball career. “I think the strengths of this team will be the leadership we will get from our seniors, the competitive nature of the players and the desire to work hard and improve every day,” Chantos said. “We expect to have a very competitive conference season.”

– Craig Brueske

Glenbard South

Coach: Julie Fonda

Top returning players: Grace Zeman, sr., P-1B-3B; Maddy Blazek, sr., C; Delaney Nelson, so., CF; Delaney Spontak, jr., RF

Worth noting: Zeman was 6-1 with an 0.52 ERA in nine games last year and also hit .296 with 16 RBIs. Blazek hit .293 with two homers and 22 RBIs. Nelson hit .312 and had a .459 on-base percentage to go with 10 steals. Spontak hit .366 with nine extra-base hits and 26 RBIs. Blazek and Zeman were all-UEC picks and are among seven starters back for the Raiders. “This team has a very high softball IQ,” Fonda said. “They are a group hungry to learn and get better. We are young, but will most likely surprise a lot of people this year.” Fonda said South Elgin and Bartlett are teams to monitor in the UEC. “I see us in the top three this year,” she said.

– Craig Brueske

Glenbard West

Coach: Mary McGrane

Last season’s record: 13-17, 5-7 West Suburban Silver

Top returning players: Olivia Salerno, jr., P; Ellie Adduci, jr., P; Ainslie Bobroff, jr., 2B; May Adduci, sr., OF; Megan Stieglitz, jr., OF; Alexa Trybus, so., C/3B; Morgan Putnam, jr., OF; Mallory Brannegan, sr., 1B

Top new players: Maddy Bodzioch, so., IF; Caroline Semprevivo, so., IF

Worth noting: The Hilltoppers, who lost to Glenbard North in regional semifinal last season, return a solid core of five starters. Keiser University commit Salerno, who posted a 4-5 record with 72 strikeouts over 74 innings, and Ellie Adduci, who posted a 9-10 record with 116 strikeouts over 100 innings and batted .437 with seven doubles, six homers and 23 RBIs, are back in the circle. Other starters back are Bobroff, who hit .324 with seven doubles, six homers and 28 RBIs, May Adduci, who hit .400 with 11 doubles, four homers and 23 RBIs, and Stieglitz, who hit .358 with 10 doubles, seven homers and 24 RBIs. “The returners and newcomers have a lot of talent, which will give us the opportunity to compete every game,” McGrane said.

Hinsdale Central

Coach: Brittany Zust

Last season’s record: 11-16, 3-9 West Suburban Silver (sixth place)

Top returning players: Maisie McDaniel, sr., 1B; Naomi Cook, sr., 3B; Sophie DiPasquale, jr., SS

Top new player: Kaleigh Kozlowski, fr., OF

Worth noting: Six starters return for the Red Devils. McDaniel, who will play in college at Davis & Elkins College, hit over .300 in almost every game last season. “This is a group of kids that will hold one another accountable,” Zust said. “They have the right intentions and the ability to continue to prove others wrong. This type of determination is one that any coach wants for their team. I like our group of girls. They play well together and have a common goal – to win games and play their best ball for a full seven innings. As a coach, I am excited. We are ready to be challenged. We have three freshmen joining us this year. I am looking forward to seeing how they can help our squad both offensively and defensively.”

Hinsdale South

Coach: Natalie Gamino

Last season’s record: 7-19-1, 5-7 West Suburban Gold (fourth place)

Top returning players: Lauren Bishop, jr., P/1B; Audrey Mulgrew, sr., 2B; Alex Kuhlman, so., SS/3B; Lilly Davy, so., UT; Noelle Waterman, sr., OF; Annika Nicol, sr., C; Isabella Yanez, jr., OF; Kayla Buckels-Meen, jr., OF; Camden Kiefer, sr., UT

Worth noting: The Hornets are hoping for a fresh start with Gamino taking over as head coach. Bishop, Mulgrew, Kuhlman, Davy, Waterman and Nicol are returning starters. “With the leadership and athleticism of our seniors, we are looking to finish above .500 for the season,” Gamino said. “We will be competitive in all games and hope to finish in the top three of the conference. Our outfield is looking just as strong as our infield, with little to no weak spots in the defense. Hitting will be strong this year, depending on how we can do against conference pitching.” Nicol, an All-WSC Gold pick as a junior, is one of six returning starters. “The strengths of this team will be our four senior starters,” Gamino said. “With great leadership, communication and skill, we are hoping to take this team far this spring.”

IC Catholic Prep

Coach: Frank Reaber

Last season’s record: 24-9, 8-4 Metro Suburban Blue

Top returning players: Analisa Raffaelli, sr., SS; AJ Dwyer, sr., P-1B; Kayla Carrillo, sr., 2B-P; Maddy Dinino, so., P-OF

Top new players: Kelly Cahill, fr.; Lexi Russ, fr.; Ari Zito, fr.

Worth noting: The Knights have six returning starters from a 2023 team that advanced to a sectional final. Raffaelli was the Metro Suburban Conference Player of the Year and an all-state first-team selection after hitting .596 with 59 hits, 15 doubles, 14 homers, 41 RBIs, 60 runs scored and 34 stolen bases. Dwyer hit .506 with 45 hits, 16 doubles, nine homers, 39 RBIs and 33 runs scored while also going 8-2 in the circle on her way to all-state second-team honors, Carillo hit .472 with 50 hits, six triples, four triples and 34 RBIs. Dinino hit .404 with 36 hits and 20 RBIs while going 12-6 in the circle. Raffaelli is headed to Colgate. Dwyer will play at College of Lake County. “Our senior leadership is definitely one of our biggest strengths,” Reaber said. “The seniors have all played a majority of their softball games, if not all, at the varsity level. They have experienced our highs and lows over the past three years and are already showing our younger players what it means to play varsity softball at IC Catholic Prep.”

Wheaton North's Reagan Crosthwaite, left, tags out St. Charles North's Ginger Ritter at second base during Wednesday’s softball game in Wheaton.


Coach: Chris Traina

Last season’s record: 36-1

Top returning players: Raegan Duncan, sr., IF; Allison Pawlowicz, sr., IF; Avaree Taylor, sr., IF; Natalie Pacyga, jr., IF; Rhea Mardjetko, sr., P

Top new players: Sydney Kibbons, jr., P; Emma Kazmarski, sr., P

Worth noting: Lemont won its second straight Class 3A state title last season. It will be a new look in Lemont this spring with two-time Suburban Life Softball Player of the Year Sage Mardjetko no longer in the circle. She’s now a freshman at South Carolina. Her batterymate, Frankie Rita, also graduated. Duncan, an SIU-Edwardsville commit, hit .432 last season. Loyola recruit Pawlowicz hit .362, but may be out for the season because of an injury. Taylor, who is committed to Truman State, hit .500 with 24 RBIs. Pacyga, a Western Illinois recruit, hit .353 with 28 RBIs. “Lemont softball is focused and dedicated to being a competitive team and having another strong season,” Traina said.


Coach: Amy Bukovsky

Last season’s record: 14-12, 6-6 Girls Catholic Athletic

Top returning players: Erin Grimsley, sr., UT; Kat Filkowski, jr., UT; Kassandra Gutierrez, sr., IF; Ariana Macias, jr., P-IF

Top new players: Aubry Raffen, fr., C-IF; Cedona Barrett, fr., P-IF

Worth noting: Grimsley was a third-team all-state pick and all-GCAC selection after slugging .634 and sporting a .938 fielding percentage. Filkowski also made it to the third-team all-state list and was all-GCAC after hitting .464 and fielding at a .939 clip. Gutierrez hit .351 and had a .908 fielding percentage in the infield. Macias hit .414. Grimsley is committed to Wisconsin-Whitewater. Four starters are back from last year’s sectional championship team. “We hope the strength of this team will be our offensive production because we have the skill sets to produce runs in many different ways,” Bukovsky said.

– Craig Brueske


Coach: Victoria Sobol

Last season’s record: 11-24, 1-12 East Suburban Catholic Conference

Top returning players: Emme Barnes, jr., C/IF; Kennedy Joe, jr., OF; Annabella Rychetsky, jr., P/IF; Taylor Reynolds, sr., P/IF; Dom Chlada, sr., C/IF; Sophie Westol, sr., OF; Kate Mangan, sr., UT; Catie Luzzi, sr., P/IF

Top new players: Morgan Kwak, fr., UT; Alani Schwertfeger, fr., UT

Worth noting: The Roadrunners, who won a regional championship last season, are looking forward to competing this season with a core playing its third varsity season together. Barnes hit .323 with an .829 OPS, one homer and 14 RBIs last year, Joe hit .320 with a .947 OPS and five homers and Rychetsky posted a 2.018 WHIP with 139 strikeouts in the circle. Reynolds posted a 2.316 WHIP and Luzzi a 2.023 WHIP while batting .303 with an .878 OPS. “Strong pitching has been consistent for us and this season we’re looking at a stronger defense behind our pitchers,” Sobol said. “Adding two freshmen utility players has helped us be able to expand our options defensively. Our biggest area of growth is offensive production. Again, having an experienced varsity roster this season should be an advantage for us. We have the hitters. Now we’re trying to string the hits together.”


Coach: Doug Schultz

Last season’s record: 19-9

Top returning players: Emily Organ, sr., SS/3B/C; Zoe Levine, sr., C/3B; Ellie Megall, jr., 3B/SS; Julia Madera, sr., CF; Kelley Tyler, sr., LF/RF; Ella Jurgens, jr., 2B/SS; Trinity Stevenson, so., P/1B/3B; Abby Weinert, so., P/1B; Tali Herrera, jr., OF/C

Top new players: Olivia Ballon, so., DP/3B; Reese Milchhoefer, fr., OF/P; Natalia Ibarra, sr., IF; Abby Tyler, jr., OF

Worth noting: The Bulldogs have high hopes with eight returning starters, three of whom are Division I recruits. Leading the way are four-year starters Organ and Levine. Organ, a Bradley recruit and two-time all-conference shortstop, hit .448 with nine doubles, eight homers and 36 RBIs last year. Levine, a DePaul commit and three-time all-conference catcher, hit .495 with 19 doubles, six homers and 40 RBIs. Megall, committed to Oakland University and a two-time all-league third baseman, hit .415 with seven doubles and 31 RBIs. The Bulldogs’ pitching staff is young, but both sophomore pitchers have varsity experience. A challenging nonconference schedule includes defending Class 4A champion Marist, Lincoln-Way Central, Lincoln-Way East and Downers Grove North. “The Bulldogs look to be one of the top teams in the final season of the Metro Suburban Conference before moving to the Upstate 8 Conference in 2025,” Schultz said. “We feel like we will be able to produce high-scoring games to be very competitive this season.”

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 last season won 21 games and a regional championship while starting five freshmen. 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. 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.

Timothy Christian

Coach: Lindsey Slovey

Last season’s record: 8-10, 6-4 Metro Suburban Red

Top returning players: Kaleigh Sue Younglove, sr., P; Sophia Mook, jr., SS; Chloe Wetterquist, jr., 2B

Top new players: Gace Hoffman, fr., 3B; Lauren Kottke, fr., C-IF-OF; Lucy Melzer, fr., C-OF; Alex Johnson, fr., 1B-P

Worth noting; Younglove and Mook were All-MSC Red selections as a junior and sophomore, respectively, and are two of five returning starters. “Kaleigh Sue, Sophia and Chloe were among the best the program has seen in years,” Slovey said. “They are very important to the defense and offense and are coming back stronger and better.” Of Timothy’s nine starters, six play the sport year-round, Slovey said. “We have never had a team that has this many travel players,” she said. Timothy is in its first season in the Chicagoland Christian Conference.

– Craig Brueske


Coach: Josh Ott

Last season’s record: 1-19

Top returning players: Hayden Bos, sr., CF; Addisyn Haseltine, so., 1B; Reagan Kelly, so., P-SS-3B; Riley Brandani, so., 2B-CF

Top new players: Grace Detente, fr., C-3B; Desaree Shobutte, fr., P-1B; Alice O’Connor fr., SS

Worth noting: Bos, who will attend college at the University of Utah, is a returning all-conference player from a Sentinels team that reached a Class 2A regional title game. “We are very young, athletic and will grow together during our rebuild,” said Ott, the team’s new head coach. He’s assisted by Peggy Barrett, another new coach.

– Craig Brueske

Wheaton North

Coach: Allie Ravanesi

Last season’s record: 25-10, 11-3 DuKane Conference (second place)

Top returning players: Erin Metz, jr., P; Reagan Crosthwaite, jr., SS; Macy Pomatto, sr., IF/DH; Monica Kading, sr., IF/3B; Makayla Grants, jr., OF; Ava Hartnett, jr., IF/1B; Hannah Wulf, so., P; Makayla Hammer, so., OF; Gabby Arrigo, jr., C; Hana Stoner, jr., OF

Top new players: Moriah Herr, fr., C; Abby Del Preto, jr., OF/IF

Worth noting: The Falcons won 25 games last year with a young group facing a tough schedule. That gives Ravanesi confidence they can go above and beyond despite graduating four starters. Metz, a four-year varsity starter and Valparaiso recruit, posted a 1.48 ERA with 253 strikeouts over 28 games last year and hit .333 at the plate. Crosthwaite batted .383 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs and anchors the Wheaton North lineup. Pomatto was limited to 18 games because of injury last year, but hit .469 with 24 RBIs. Kading, who will play in college at Rollins, batted .369. “I would love to see this team make a run in the postseason,” Ravanesi said. “We have been talking a lot about consistency, so if we can be consistent throughout the year, we have a great shot at doing what we are here to do. This program has consistently been building up success over the past three to four years and I do not see that going away anytime soon.”

Wheaton Warrenville South

Coach: Jeff Pawlak

Last season’s record: 18-12 overall, 5-9 DuKane Conference

Top returning players: Parker Leonard, sr., SS/2B; Maddie Pool, sr., P; Presley Wright, jr., SS/P/OF; Brooke Struebing, sr., 3B; Mallorie Durian, sr., C; Kaylie Pereira, sr., DP; Abby Mease, jr., LF; Allie Michalowski, jr., 1B

Top new players: McKenna Bloodworth, fr., C/1B; Becca Chaney, so., MIF; Nelia Kirichun, so., OF/2B; Natalie Martinez, jr., P/1B; Caroline Schulz, so., OF; Ava Laxton, jr., C/3B

Worth noting: The Tigers, who lost to Yorkville in a sectional final, return eight starters coming off the program’s first sectional final appearance since 2004. Leading the way are seniors Leonard and Pool. Leonard, a three-time unanimous all-conference selection and all-state pick last year who will play in college at St. Ambrose, batted .416 as a junior with 10 doubles and 20 RBIs. Illinois Wesleyan commit Pool is a two-time unanimous all-conference pick and all-stater as a junior after hitting .397 with 10 doubles, five homers and 31 RBIs. Keiser commit Wright hit .290 and Struebing hit .275. Durian was WW South’s starting catcher during the playoff run after the starting catcher went down with an injury. Pereira, committed to North Park, is a three-year varsity player. Speedy slapper Mease hit .281 as a sophomore. “The team is mature and the core group has been playing together for multiple years on the varsity level,” Pawlak said. “The girls are committed and determined to work hard and build upon their close relationship as a group. They have high expectations for themselves and the team as a whole.”


Coach: Nick Hildreth

Last season’s record: 18-12

Top returning players: Karmen Rowe, sr., P; Isabella Dugo, sr., C; Lindsey Rugg, sr., 1B; Sonia Ruchala, jr., SS; Isabel Bates, jr., IF

Top new players: Caitlin Cooper, so.; Allie Coppersmith, so.; Marli Smrz, so.; Liz Pettinger, fr.

Worth noting: Hildreth, also Willowbrook’s varsity football coach, takes over in the dugout. His biggest concern is replacing Kayleigh Dennison, who hit a team-best .488 last year, and Willowbrook’s entire outfield from 2023. Ruchala hit .350 with eight doubles, two homers, 23 runs scored and 17 RBIs as a freshman and leads five returning starters. Rowe posted a 9-4 record with a 2.48 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 118.1 innings pitched. Rugg hit .312 with 16 runs scored and 13 RBIs.


Coach: Lisa Fraticola

Last season’s record: 18-15, 8-4 West Suburban Silver (third place)

Top returning players: Isabella Lanciloti, sr., OF/P; Avery Kanouse, jr., P; Caitlin Ledbetter, jr., OF; Maggie Demopolous, so., 2B; Lilly Burda, so., SS; Eliana Garcia, jr., C; Taylor McMillen, jr., P/IF; Nubia Toledo, jr., C/1B

Top new players: Anna Kapotas, sr., OF; Alexandra EIEtr-Garofalo, so., 3B; Sophia Lanciloti, so., P/OF; Morgen Balfanz, so., 3B/1B; Sara Steinecker, fr., 3B/C

Worth noting: The Dukes return six starters from a regional champion. Kanouse was an all-conference pitcher as a sophomore with 181 strikeouts over 140.2 innings and a 2.79 ERA. At the plate, Lanciloti hit .353 with a .450 on-base percentage, Demopolous hit .389 with a .436 on-base percentage and all-conference shortstop Burda hit .366 with a .443 on-base percentage, four homers and 16 RBIs. McMillen hit .317 with a .404 on-base percentage and struck out 34 in 55.2 innings. “The girls have really embraced our motto of ‘Play Tough. Play Together,’ ” Fraticola said. “The 16 girls that we have are eager to improve both the physical and mental aspects of the game. By working together both on and off the field, we plan to finish strong in both the conference and postseason play.”

Joshua  Welge

Joshua Welge

I am the Sports Editor for Kendall County Newspapers, the Kane County Chronicle and Suburban Life Media, covering primarily sports in Kendall, Kane, DuPage and western Cook counties. I've been covering high school sports for 24 years. I also assist with our news coverage.