The 2023 softball season is underway. Here are previews of teams in the Suburban Life coverage area.
Coach: Jerry Schilf (23rd season)
Last season’s record: 21-7, 7-5 East Suburban Catholic Conference, second place
Top returning players: Taylor Sconza, sr., LF; Nina Pesare, jr., CF; Gianna Horejs, jr., 2B; Bridget Chapman, jr., 3B
Other returning players: Angela Horejs, so., SS
Top new players: Alex O’Rourke, jr.; Gabby Patterson, so.; Gianna Cunningham, fr.; Marikate Ritterbusch, 1B/OF
Worth noting: The Redwings graduated eight seniors from a team that won Benet’s second straight regional title and reached a sectional final. Sconza transferred to Benet last year and is a second-year starter. Third-year starter Pesare is a two-time all-conference player with multiple NCAA Division I offers. Gianna Horejs and Chapman are third-year starters. Angela Horejs missed her freshman season with an injury. Benet’s pitchers have no varsity experience but Schilf said they looked promising in the preseason.
“It’s a young talented group with speed instead of power,” Schilf said. “We will get better as the season progresses.”
Downers Grove North
Coach: Eric Landschoot (10th season)
Last season’s record: 17-9, 10-2 West Suburban Silver, first place, regional champions
Top returning players: Ava Gusel, jr., P; Maya Rodriguez, jr., 3B/P; Allison Smetana, jr., IF
Other returning players: Libby Encina; Cali Bailey; Dana Kamilis; Madeline Surowiec; Marissa Collazo; Sophia Barofsky; Avery Perkins
Top new player: Ashlynn Durkin, so., P/1B
Worth noting: The Trojans won their sixth Class 4A regional championship over the past eight seasons last spring. Gusel, a DePaul commit, leads a group of three starters and 10 players back from last year’s team. Gusel posted a 2.60 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 100 innings in her second varsity season. Rodriguez, another three-year starter, hit .409 with a .519 on-base percentage, three doubles and 17 RBIs. Smetana hit .367 with a .449 on-base percentage, three doubles and 13 RBIs. Durkin, injured her entire freshman season, will be one of the Trojans’ top pitchers. She also is an outstanding hitter who is solid defensively at first base.
“As is the case most years, I think we will have another solid season, as we are very deep with pitching and in the field,” Landschoot said. “I also think we will surprise many teams with what we can do at the plate. ... Great chance of winning back-to-back WSC titles.”
Downers Grove South
Coach: James Cushing (fifth season)
Last season’s record: 18-5, 11-1 West Suburban Gold, first place
Top returning players: Ella Cushing, jr., P/1B; Grace Taylor, jr., SS; Cadee Baker, sr., OF/C; Anna Luczak, sr., IF; Ella Dvoracek; Sofia Storrs, OF
Other returning players: Grace Barry, C
Worth noting: Coach James Cushing said he is excited to get the season underway with a good mix of seniors and underclassmen, including three freshmen who could push to start at some point. Leading the way for the Mustangs is Ella Cushing, an Illinois recruit, who hit .542 with nine homers and 42 RBIs last year. She is one of six starters back. Taylor hit .403 with a .451 on-base percentage, six homers and 28 RBIs. Baker hit .359 with a .446 on-base percentage. Luczak had a .417 on-base percentage. Storrs had a .450 batting average with a .542 on-base percentage. Barry hit .500 in a limited role.
“Ella Cushing and Grace Taylor will provide the power with a well balanced lineup. Ella will lead us on the mound with freshman Morgan Hahn backing her up,” James Cushing said.
Coach: Victor Swanson (fourth season)
Last season’s record: 13-18, 10-8 Upstate Eight Conference
Top returning players: Melissa Saldana, so., U; Ally Block, jr., C; Gabby Walton, jr., 1B; Sophia Opila, jr., U; Raya Schwebl, jr., OF; Jackie Hernandez, sr., U; Taylor Dattilo, sr., P; Maddie Howell, jr., U; Katie Iversen, jr., 3B/1B
Top new players: Ashlyn Stratton, jr., P; Marley Szeluga, so., P; Kylie White, so., OF
Worth noting: The Rams graduated two all-conference, four-year starters in Giana Raitano and Ella Brooks. “They were excellent players who left us in a much better place by their leadership and grit,” Swanson said. Glenbard East is looking forward to building on last year’s 13-win season, the most the program has had in at least eight years. “We have a lot of quality athletes returning that we can plug in at multiple positions,” Swanson said. “As a coach, I am looking forward to the versatility of my lineup and my pitching staff.”
Coach: Julie Fonda (17th season)
Last season’s record: 12-11, 11-7 Upstate Eight Conference
Top returning players: Hannah Rafferty-Flatter, sr., P; Grace Zeman, jr., 3B/P; Maddy Blazek, jr., C; Mia Lake, sr., SS
Top new players: Delaney Spontak, so., OF; Lucy Mahorovic, fr., 2B/SS; Delaney Nelson, fr., 2B/OF; Edie Skibbe, fr., OF/C
Worth noting: Four starters return for the Raiders, led by two strong leaders in Rafferty-Flatter and Lake. Rafferty-Flatter struck out 160 batters over 105 innings last spring, and at the plate hit .441 with a .548 on-base percentage, 30 hits and 28 RBIs. Loras commit Lake, who started at shortstop as a sophomore, returns after ACL surgery. Zeman hit .270 with a .370 on-base percentage and 23 RBIs last year, and went 7-0 with a 0.724 ERA over 29 innings in the circle. Blazek hit .232 with a .368 on-base percentage and 15 RBIs.
“We are young and hungry. This is a great group of softball players with two amazing leaders in Hannah Rafferty-Flatter and Mia Lake and the expectations are high,” Fonda said. “We will work hard to accomplish our goals.”
Coach: Mary McGrane (16th season)
Last season’s record: 10-16, 8-4 West Suburban Silver
Top returning players: Ava Heard, jr., C; Makayla Heard, jr., SS; Ainslie Bobroff, jr., 2B; May Adduci, jr., CF; Ellie Adduci, so., P; Mallory Brannegan, jr., P/1B.
Other returning players: Hanna Bochenski, jr., OF
Top new players: Ellie Frank, OF; Megan Stieglitz, U; Olivia Salerno, P; Aliyah Heredia, IF; Kate Lowrie, U; Alexa Trybus, fr.
Worth noting: Six starters return for the Hilltoppers, and McGrane is hopeful to start the season off strong with all that experience back. It starts in the circle with Ellie Adduci, who had 89 strikeouts in 99 1/3 innings, and Brannegan, who had 31 strikeouts in 59 innings. Added to that mix in a pitcher by committee is Salerno, with all three throwing differently and bringing different strengths to the table. May Adduci, who hit .301 with four doubles, a triple, eight RBIs and 14 runs, covers a ton of ground in center field. Bobroff comes off a stellar season, .329 with eight doubles, three homers, 23 RBIs and 14 runs. McGrane calls the versatility of sisters Makayla and Ava Heard’s a blessing – Makayla hit .358 last year with two doubles, 11 RBIs and 18 runs scored and Ava hit .321 with 12 doubles, a homer, 15 RBIs and 19 runs. Brannegan, who hit .395 last year with three doubles, seven RBIs and four runs scored, is a spark plug in the middle of the order.
“This team has endless possibilities and it’ll be fun to watch them continue to grow and play for each other,” McGrane said.
Coach: Brittany Zust (seventh season)
Last season’s record: 7-14
Top returning players: Amelia McLaughlin, sr., OF; Paige Filips, sr., C; Naomi Cook, jr., IF
Worth noting: Zust is excited for this softball season with the Red Devils’ largest freshman class in 30 years. She expects a large senior class to lead and guide her young team to learn what it takes to work hard and get better each and every day. Filips hit .455 last season, Cook hit .448 and McLaughlin .412.
“We have a lot to look forward to and plan to be a competitive group as we grow and learn from one another,” Zust said.
Coach: Shannon Fuller (fourth season)
Last season’s record: 14-13, 5-7 West Suburban Gold
Top returning players: Amber Fedinec, sr., 1B; Ashley Leban, sr., P/1B; Caitlin Bishop, sr., U; Caelyn Chorzempa, sr., 3B; Annika Nicol, jr., C; Camden Kiefer, jr., OF; Noelle Waterman, jr., OF; Audrey Mulgrew, jr., 2B; Lauren Bishop, so., P
Top new players: Maggie Koubenec, sr., C/3B/U; Kayla Buckels-Meen, so., U; Lilly Davy fr., OF; Alexis Kuhlman, fr., 3B; Callie Carr, fr., SS
Worth noting: The Hornets have had some bad fortune in Fuller’s five seasons at Hinsdale South. Most recently, her returning All-State player last season was only able to return for the playoffs, and this year the Hornets are down to only one level. In spite of all of this, Hinsdale South last season won a regional title and Fuller has sights set even higher this year with 10 returning varsity players. Fedinec is a returning all-conference player and Augustana commit who hit .444 last year. Benedictine golf/bowling commit Leban, also all-conference last spring, hit .306 and pitched to a 3.01 ERA. Benedictine commit Bishop posted a .342 on-base percentage. Nikol had 15 hits, 10 runs and three RBIs and is a “wall” behind the plate. Kiefer is coming off an injury that cost her most of last year and Waterman last year won the Hornets’ “Heart and Hustle” award. Buckels-Meen had two hits in two at-bats after being called up for the postseason last year.
“Quite simply put, the girls on this team are resilient and selfless, and they are ready to move the bus and cannot wait to get back on the diamond,” Fuller said.
IC Catholic Prep
Coach: Frank Reaber (14th season)
Last season’s record: 18-12, 6-7 Metro Suburban Conference, lost in sectional final
Top returning players: Analisa Raffaelli, jr., SS; Riley Venn, sr., 3B; AJ Dwyer, jr., 1B/P; Natasha DeRose, sr., C; Kayla Carrillo, jr., P/2B; Samy Serrano, sr., OF
Top new players: Madelynn DiNino, fr., P
Worth noting: The Knights have six starters returning from a team that reached a sectional final last season, led by ICA All-Staters Raffaelli, Venn and Dwyer. Raffaelli hit .545 with a .650 on-base percentage with nine doubles, six triples, eight homers, 29 RBIs and 33 stolen bases. Stetson commit Venn hit .471 with a .515 on-base percentage and nine doubles, four triples, seven homers and 38 RBIs. Dwyer posted a 4-4 record and at the plate hit .487 with a .539 on-base percentage with seven doubles, two triples, four homers and 31 RBIs. Among other returners, DeRose posted a .432 on-base percentage with eight doubles and 22 RBIs, Carrillo hit .371 with six doubles and 15 RBIs and went 10-7 in the circle, and Serrano hit .314 with three doubles, three triples and 13 RBIs.
“It is our goal to play competitively in our last year in the MSC conference,” Reaber said. “We have a tough schedule, and we hope that it prepares us for conference play, as well as going far in the playoffs.”
Coach: Chris Traina (16th season)
Last year’s record: 34-6, 16-3 South Suburban, Class 3A state champions
Top returning players: Sage Mardjetko, sr., P; Frankie Rita, sr., C; Allison Pawlowicz, jr., INF; Raegan Duncan, jr., INF; Natalie Pacyga: so., INF; Nicole Pontrelli, sr., OF/IF/P; Avaree Taylor, jr., INF/P; Maya Hollendoner, so., OF; Alyssa DeMaio, jr., OF
Worth noting: Lemont won the state championship for the first time in program history last spring, defeating Antioch 3-1 in the Class 3A semifinals and St. Ignatius 1-0 in the championship game. Lemont will be looking for a repeat after returning its entire lineup, including the All-State battery of Mardjetko and Rita. Mardjetko was the Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year and pitched her 11th no-hitter of the season in the state championship game. The South Carolina commit finished 21-1 with a 0.29 ERA and 329 strikeouts in 142 2/3 innings. She allowed only one run over her last 71 innings last year. Rita, an All-Area selection along with Mardjetko, hit .425 with 10 doubles, three homers, 41 runs and 33 RBIs. Rita is committed to Drake. Pawlowicz (Loyola commit) hit .345 with 40 runs and 22 RBIs; Duncan (Southern Illinois-Edwardsville) hit .422 with a .514 on-base percentage and 46 RBIs. Pacyga hit .417 with 32 runs and 29 RBIs. Hollendoner scored 22 runs, including the game-winner in the state final. Taylor drove in 27 runs at the plate and posted a 2.67 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. Pontrelli scored 22 runs and pitched to a 2.08 ERA. DeMaio scored 22 runs.
Coach: Megan Pyles (first season)
Last year’s record: 20-4, 10-2 West Suburban Silver, first place, regional champions
Top returning players: Tess Meyer, sr., C/UTIL; Peyton O’Flaherty, jr., 3B/UTIL; Kaitlyn Filkins, jr., CF; Makenna Kotor, sr., C; Lillian Prendergast, sr., 1B
Other returning players: Isabella Evans, so., P; Jalene Sanchez, sr., OF; Clare Kelliher, jr., OF
Top new players: Ava Jacklin, fr., INF; Skyla Greco-Forsell, fr., P/OF; Tess Bernson, so., OF; Arianna Amella, jr., C/2B
Worth noting: Pyles takes over head-coaching duties for Nicole Paluch, who led Lyons for six seasons. The Lions improved by seven wins last year and tied Downers Grove North for first in the West Suburban Silver. Lyons won its first regional championship since 2017 with a 3-1 win over Willowbrook in the Class 4A Lyons Regional final, getting 17 strikeouts from graduate and All-State choice Lily Hanafin (now at George Washington). The Lions also graduated top shortstop Ava Paganis (now at Bryant), another All-State selection who hit .421 with 12 doubles, five homers, 31 RBIs and 33 runs. Meyer, O’Flaherty and Evans will be the team captains. Meyer is committed to NIU and O’Flaherty to Tennessee-Chattanooga. Evans is out for the year with an injury, while Sanchez and Kelliher are working their way back from injuries.
Coach: Erin Bradarich (fifth season)
Last year’s record: 19-10, 7-7 GCAC Red, fourth, regional and sectional champions
Top returning players: Taylor Utrata, sr., 3B/SS; Amanda Wozniak, sr., P/2B; Miranda BonDurant, sr., C; Alexa Bauman, sr., OF; Brooke Kuczynski, jr., 1B/P; Erin Grimsley, jr., OF; Kat Filkowski, so., 2B/OF
Other returning players: Kassy Reyes, sr., 1B; Payton Atkins, so., 3B
Top new players: Kassandra Gutierrez, jr., OF/SS; Ariana Macias, so., OF/P; Sarah Paradis, jr., OF/1B
Worth noting: The Broncos won their eighth regional championship in nine seasons and first sectional title since winning a state championship in 2018. Montini beat IC Catholic 4-3 in the Class 2A Montini Sectional final and lost to Pontiac 3-0 in the supersectional round. Montini will have to replace the big hitting and pitching of All-State and All-Area graduate Kora Navarro, who hit .490 with a .827 slugging percentage, seven homers and 40 RBIs and was the team’s ace. The Broncos return seven starters from last season. Utrata is committed to Wisconsin-Parkside, BonDurant to Maryville, Bauman to Dominican and Kuczynksi to Florida Atlantic.
“Having advanced to the supersectional and with seven returning starters, we look to carry last season’s success into this one,” Bradarich said. “We have a very experienced team with a core group of seniors who are excited to lead the charge.”
Coach: Vicki Sobol (third season)
Last year’s record: 10-19, 3-12 East Suburban Catholic, tied for sixth
Top returning players: Ava Calderon, sr., SS; Taylor Reynolds, jr., P-INF; Emme Barnes, so., INF-C; Annabella Rychetsky, so., P-UTIL
Other returning players: Liz Selover, sr.; Amaris Teran, sr.; Dominique Chlada, jr.; Catie Luzzi, jr.; Kate Mangan, jr.; Sophie Westol, jr.; Kennedy Joe, so.
Worth noting: After bringing back only three varsity players last year, the Roadrunners will have much more experience this spring with 11 players returning. Nazareth graduated Class 3A All-State center fielder Alli Mangan (.616 BA, 34 runs, 27 steals) and All-ESCC catcher Melisa Hadzic, but Sobol was pleased by the progress that last year’s team, including the younger players, made over the course of the season. Calderon (.384 BA) is a four-year varsity starter and will play a key role in leading the team, Sobol said. Reynolds was a top hitter with a .367 batting average. Reynolds and Rychetsky are the team’s top returning pitchers. Rychetsky had 115 strikeouts in 97 2/3 innings as a freshman.
“Our best accomplishments last season were taking huge strides forward in developing our fundamentals for varsity-level competition and developing a fantastic team bond,” Sobol said. “We expect to build on all of that progress this season.”
Coach: Doug Schultz (10th season)
Last year’s record: 14-11
Top returning players: Lianna Noel, sr., 2B; Luna Lloyd, sr., 2B/LF; Emily Organ, jr., SS; Zoe Levine, jr., C; Julia Madera, jr., CF; Ellie Megall, so., 3B
Other returning players: Paige Fudacz, sr., C/2B/DP; Mia Gonzalez, sr., OF/INF; Ellary Hastings, sr., 1B/OF/P; Kelley Tyler, jr., RF/INF
Top new players: Trinity Stevenson, fr., P/INF; Abby Weinert, fr., P/INF
Worth noting: The Bulldogs moved up to Class 4A last spring and won their third consecutive regional title with a 7-1 win over Downers Grove South. They lost to eventual state runner-up Marist 3-1 in the sectional semifinals. Riverside-Brookfield returns six starters and 10 players on varsity. Schultz expects to compete at the top of the Metro Suburban Conference. Levine was an all-conference catcher for the second year in a row and made the All-Area team after hitting .468 with 12 doubles, a triple, eight homers and 36 RBIs. Emily Organ committed to Bradley in December. Her sister, Hannah, graduated from Riverside Brookfield last year and was at Miami (Ohio), but then transferred to Bradley in January. The Bulldogs are not scared of playing a difficult schedule and will see Marist and Lincoln-Way Central, as well as some surrounding area top programs in Oak Park-River Forest, Lyons, Nazareth and Fenwick.
Coach: Ralph Remus
Last year’s record: 14-12
Top returning players: Natalie Doyle, jr., INF/P; Hailey Dillon, sr., OF; Maggie Stewart, so., P; Meghan Suess, jr., P; Katherine Globe, sr., 1B
Top new players: Lauren Kennedy, fr., SS; Adriana Pizzuto fr., C; Lilly Konen, fr., INF; Ava Delatorre, fr., OF; Maria Bukowski, fr., OF; Kaylie Arredondo, fr., OF; Gillian Paraday, fr., INF-OF
Worth noting: Remus enters the year three wins from 500 in his career. Gone is Class 3A All-State and All-Area selection Brooke Hartzell, who led the Spartans with a .513 batting average, 20 extra-base hits, 36 runs, 25 RBIs and 16 stolen bases at shortstop. But Remus believes his team’s defense will fare better overall and he expects the offense to improve as the season progresses. Stewart hit .350 and posted a 2.67 ERA in the circle. Suess was 12-11 with a 2.71 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 134 innings.
“This is the youngest team I have ever had,” Remus said. “The freshman all have a chance at seeing significant playing time. We spend spring break playing and practicing in Myrtle Beach, and that will give a better feeling about the newcomers. I cannot predict wins and losses, but I guarantee we will be better in May than we are in March.”
Coach: Lindsay Slovey (seventh season)
Last year’s record: Not provided
Top returning players: Lindsey Anderson, sr., C; Bianca Maldonado, sr., CF; Kaleigh Sue Younglove, jr., P; Sophia Mook, so., SS; Maci Woerner, so., P/3B/SS; Chloe Wetterquist, so., 3B/2B
Other returning players: Lily Stanek, jr., OF; Kierstyn Herrmann, jr., OF; Nora Fisher, sr., 1B; Anna Fisher, jr., OF
Top new players: Violet Stanek, fr., C/1B; Bella Potempa, fr., OF
Worth noting: The Trojans return four of their top five hitters from last year, and their entire infield is back except for Emily Slovey at first base. Coach Lindsay Slovey said last season was her team’s most successful since she’s been at Timothy Christian. The Trojans reached the Class 2A IC Catholic Regional final, falling to host IC Catholic 13-0 in five innings. “We’re looking forward to a strong season with a lot of strong returners,” Lindsay Slovey said. “[Last year’s] highlights were seeing the hard work of the older girls pay off and watching the program grow with the new girls on the team.”
Coach: Sue Zapinski (ninth season)
Last year’s record: 7-15, 5-11 Metro Suburban
Top returning players: Grace Heiden, sr., 2B; Jenae Silva, sr., LF; Hayden Bos, jr., CF
Other returning players: Zariah Jones, jr., 3B; Callie Devine, jr., RF; Keniya Singleton, so., INF/OF
Top new players: Reagan Kelly, fr., P; Addisyn Haseltine, fr., C/INF; Olivia Postawa, fr., C/INF; Sadie Scales, fr., 1B
Worth noting: The Sentinels graduated six seniors, all of them starters, from last year’s Class 2A regional championship team – the program’s first regional title since 2018. Westmont ended its season with an 11-1 loss to IC Catholic in the sectional semifinals. Heiden is a four-year starter, playing in every game a year ago with a .260 batting average. Bos is the anchor of the outfield in center and hit .354, also helping in the circle with some innings at pitcher. Zapinski expects Heiden, Silva, who is in her second season on the Sentinels, and Bos will be the leaders of the team.
“With such a young team, we will definitely have our ups and downs,” Zapinski said. “We will rely heavily on [Heiden, Silva and Bos] to help our freshman pitcher [Kelly] and catchers adjust to the competitive varsity level. I look forward to watching this team improve and grow together as the season progresses.”
Coach: Autumn Ratliff (third season)
Last year’s record: 3-5
Top returning players: Moriah Husted, so., 2B/OF; Emma Tate, sr., P; Ella Froslid, so.; 2B/OF; Audrey Lopatka, sr., SS
Top new players: Vivian Brummel, fr., 3B; Katie Moses, fr., 1B; Tatiana Chavez, so., P; Lily Blaser, jr., C
Worth noting: The Warriors are fielding a JV team again but will play a much more competitive schedule than the previous two seasons. They have increased their numbers and are up to 21 players this season. “We are looking at being very competitive this year and have added new out-of-conference teams that we have never played before,” Ratfliff said. “We have a solid team this year filled with many seasoned players. This is the first time in three years that we will play a very competitive schedule. ... We are looking to move up to varsity next year, depending on our season.”
Coach: Allie Ravanesi (second)
Last year’s record: 12-10, 6-8 DuKane Conference, tied for fifth place
Top returning players: Bailley Harverth, sr., C/INF; Makayla Grantz, so., INF/OF/P; Erin Metz, jr., INF/P; Annie Sullivan, sr., OF/P; Monica Kading, jr., INF; Macy Pomatto, jr., INF; Reagan Crosthwaite, so., INF/P
Other returning players: Hana Stoner, so., OF; Ella Glienke, jr., OF; Erica Alexander, sr., OF; Ava Hartnett, so., INF; Gabby Arrigo, so., INF/OF; Reese Johnson, sr., INF; Emmy Atkinson, sr., INF
Top new players: Makayla Hammer, fr., OF; Hannah Wulf, fr., P/INF
Worth noting: Ravanesi is excited to see the growth of Metz, a Valparaiso commit, after she recorded a 2.49 ERA as a sophomore. Harverth is another top returner and will play next year at Elmhurst. The Falcons have a few big spots to fill after graduating three starters. The biggest loss was Lauren Vaughn, who hit .471 with 12 doubles, five home runs and struck out only three times all season. Vaughn is now a freshman at Syracuse. Ravanesi said the competition for starting spots has been strong.
“This team has all the components to make a great run, but in a difficult DuKane Conference ... this will be no easy feat,” Ravanesi said. “It’s definitely going to be a fun and competitive season – not only against our opponents, but within our program, as well. We have a young team with new girls stepping up to varsity and a lot of competition is going to take place to earn those starting spots.”
Wheaton Warrenville South
Coach: Jeff Pawlak (13th season)
Last year’s record: 17-13, 6-8 DuKane Conference, tied for fifth
Top returning players: Katie Jensen, sr., SS; Parker Leonard, jr., 3B; Maddie Pool, jr., P; MacKenzie Sowonik, sr., C; Marisa Lutes, sr., P; Presley Wright, so., P
Worth noting: The Tigers lost last year’s starting first baseman, shortstop and second baseman to graduation. Jensen was all-conference and hit .437 with a .500 on-base-percentage, four home runs, 10 doubles and 26 RBIs and is committed to Lewis University. Leonard hit .425 with 10 doubles and 20 RBIs. She played left field her first two years but will move to third base. Pool was all-conference and is the Tigers’ top returning pitcher. She was 10-9 with a 2.51 ERA and hit .403 with a .482 on-base percentage. Sowonik is back at catcher for her senior year. She returned last season after suffering two ACL injuries as a freshman and sophomore. Lutes and Wright also return in the circle for the Tigers. Wright went 6-2 while Lutes got experience late in the season and pitched in some big-game situations. “[Sowonik] and our pitchers have established a nice amount of confidence and familiarity and we’re looking forward to seeing that grow this season,” Pawlak said.
“Jensen and Sowonik will provide some stability in the middle of our defense, while some younger girls step into starting roles,” Pawlak said. “We have a number of girls competing in the outfield and we’re going to let that play out. ... We’re excited to compete in the DuKane Conference again and face some of the best teams in the state.”
Coach: Rachel Karos (14th season)
Last year’s record: 19-8, 9-3 West Suburban Conference Gold, second place
Top returning players: Sonia Ruchala, so., SS; Kayleigh Dennison, sr., OF; Karman Rowe, jr., P; Zaida Serrano, sr., UTIL; Lindsey Rugg, jr., UTIL; Isabella Dugo, jr., C; Katelyn Cox, sr., OF; Emily Pearson, sr., 2B
Top new players: Isabel Bates, so., P/3B; Caroline Radomski, sr., 1B; Chloe Klamecki, sr., 1B; Hanna Mitrick, sr., OF
Worth noting: The Warriors lost a tight game to Lyons 3-2 in the Class 4A Lyons Regional final, which snapped an 11-game winning streak to close out last season. Two of Willowbrook’s top players – pitcher Caitlyn Kulczynski (Stetson) and third baseman Grace Hayes (Elmhurst) – graduated, but Karos is confident in her returners and newcomers. Ruchala is back after an impressive freshman year in which she hit .456 with 20 RBIs and 33 runs. She was one of just three freshman to earn All-State honors in Class 4A. Dennison hit .345 with 18 RBIs and 27 runs. Karos is emphasizing pitching and defense early on.
“We’re super excited to be back on the field this spring,” Karos said. “We believe we have a pitching staff that will give us the ability to stay in games and a solid lineup that will put some runs on the board. Our goal for each game will be to play errorless softball and to put pressure on the [opposing] defense with each at-bat.”
Coach: Lisa Fraticola (first season)
Last year’s record: 9-21-1, 6-6 West Suburban Conference Silver, fourth place
Top returning players: Avery Kanouse, so., P; Taylor McMillen, so., P; Madison Tran, sr., 1B/3B
Other returning players: Ella Papoccia sr., 1B; Molly Heiss sr., OF; Anna Marsh sr., C; Laney Ledbetter sr., OF; Caitlin Ledbetter so., 2B/SS; Nubia Toledo so., C
Top new players: Mariann Blass sr., SS/3B; Madison Peck sr., P/1B; Lilly Burda fr., SS/2B
Worth noting: The Dukes won the West Suburban Conference Silver Division two years ago behind Suburban Life Softball Player of the Year Lauren Derkowski (now a sophomore at Michigan), but struggled in its quest to repeat last spring with a .500 record in conference play. York does have experience on its side with nine seniors, including five that are returning from last spring. Kanouse and McMillen, both sophomores, will lead the Dukes in the circle and will be joined by Peck, a senior. The team is motivated for a quick turnaround, Fraticola said.
“As a first-year head coach, it’s been exciting to see the girls come together,” Fraticola said. “They’ve been working hard to build relationships with each other and the coaching staff. We have a motivated team that is looking forward to competing in the conference this year.”