Lauren Derkowski could live by the credo “have glove, will travel.”
Derkowski, York’s senior pitcher and Michigan commit, has traveled all over the world – five of the seven continents, at last count. She’s been to every Disney park, even the ones in Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai.
And she never leaves home without her glove.
“My mom will always play catch with me,” she said.
Derkowski has even thrown at locales that nobody would associate with softball, or places that know what softball is. She’s thrown on the Great Wall of China. She’s thrown in front of the pyramids in Egypt, where she was quite a tourist attraction to the locals.
“It was awesome. People who were there, they didn’t know what softball was,” Derkowski said. “They would come up to us and ask about it.”
Yes, softball has taken Derkowski places too.
She committed to Michigan before she even threw a pitch in high school. As a freshman in 2018, Derkowski led York to fourth place in Class 4A, just the school’s third state appearance. Derkowski eclipsed 700 career strikeouts this spring in just her third high school season, finished with 754 and led York to a West Suburban Silver title and sectional final. That, after last summer leading her Tennessee Mojo travel team to USA Softball Junior Olympic Cup championship in South Carolina.
“I thought it was a great season,” Derkowski said. “It was great to come back after such a hard year and not being able to practice as much and the precautions. The season went super well for us. As a team, it was a great group of girls to work with.”
York coach Brendan Holba, in his first season between the lines as Dukes’ coach, said that Derkowski pushed him and the coaches with a high standard of excellence and expectations.
Derkowski went 18-2 in the circle this spring with 257 strikeouts in 124 2/3 innings, with an earned run average of just 0.56 in giving up just 10 earned runs.
“She’d do stuff in practice and then went home and would throw another bullpen,” Holba said. “Her mom [who was a pitcher in high school and college] has been her personal catcher for a few years. They have a set up in the garage to get work in. She’s one of those kids that eats, sleeps and breathes softball and it shows.”
Holba, previously on York’s baseball staff, knew Derkowski was competitive beforehand – but said he didn’t fully grasp just how locked in she was until this year.
“There were moments that she would give up a single or a double and you would look in her eyes and realize that [baserunner] is not going anywhere,” Holba said. “The first time playing Oak Park-River Forest, she was facing one of her travel teammates, and by the 10th or 11th pitch I was like a spectator watching. There are competitors, and then there are ultra-competitors. She is in that second category.”
Those that know Derkowski for her pitching acumen might not know that she loves all kinds of music, and even played the trombone until she was a freshman. Or that she’s an adventurous eater who will try anything put in front of her.
Or that she’s quite a hitter, which Derkowski showed this spring.
In addition to her pitching, Derkowski also hit .500 this spring with 12 home runs, five doubles, 36 RBIs and 24 runs scored with just eight strikeouts.
One of her peak highlights this season, in fact, was a two-run first-inning home run in the sectional semifinal win over Downers Grove South.
“That was pretty awesome and holding them to no runs [with 12 strikeouts] was spectacular, a great win for us,” Derkowski said. “I wish we could have gone further but overall it was a great year for us.”
While Derkowski looks forward to the next year at Michigan – after one last trip to Disneyland with her sister this summer – Holba expects the legacy she leaves in Elmhurst to last.
“Having her on the team, she was able to show her teammates what championship-level softball is. You have to buy in every single pitch,” Holba said. “She will be gone next year but the mark she leaves will allow us to keep moving forward.”
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.