In the two seasons before Maddy Pangrcic joined the La Salle-Peru softball program, the Cavaliers went 9-19 and 13-16.
During her three seasons – her sophomore year was canceled by COVID-19 – Pangrcic helped the Cavs win 64 games, make three regional final appearances and capture an Interstate 8 Conference title.
“She came in and helped changed things around here,” L-P coach Randy Huebbe said. “Maddy really loves L-P softball. She wanted what was best for L-P softball, and it shows. She left her mark at L-P.
“She’s a big reason why we’ve done so well the last two years and especially this year. If Maddy wasn’t on this team, we wouldn’t be what we were. She’s that type of leader and that type of teammate.”
Pangrcic brought all the intangibles to an L-P team that went 25-5, won the I8 with a 12-2 record and lost, 3-1, to Rock Island in the Class 3A Dunlap Regional final.
She also brought a big bat and strong defense.
Pangrcic led the area in home runs (four) and doubles (15), ranked second in RBIs (35) and was top five in batting average (.511) and runs (34).
She was named All-I8 and Illinois Coaches Association Class 3A second-team All-State.
For all she accomplished this season, Pangrcic is the 2022 NewsTribune Softball Player of the Year.
“I thought I did pretty well,” Pangrcic said. “Last season wasn’t my best, so I worked really hard in the summer during travel ball to get back to what it normally is and stay [strong] with fielding, and I think I did a pretty good job of that.”
Pangrcic wasn’t satisfied with her offensive performance last season when she hit .350 with nine doubles, two homers, 17 RBIs and 17 runs.
So she put in the work in the offseason, playing travel softball with the Nationals out of Joliet, taking hitting lessons from Craig and Austin Smith and working with Huebbe and the Cavs.
“She absolutely loves softball,” Huebbe said. “It doesn’t matter what we ask Maddy to do, she’ll do it.
“I can’t say enough about the work she puts in.”
Pangrcic said she worked on picking her pitches, working the count and taking the ball the opposite way.
“I worked on keeping my hands back, not getting on my front foot too early and letting the ball travel a lot farther because I tend to pull the ball all the time,” Pangrcic said.
Pangrcic said she really started to notice the improvement with a hard-hit ball to right field in L-P’s 1-0 win over Ottawa on April 11.
“Her improvement from last year to this year was unbelievable,” Huebbe said. “She’s able to hit the ball wherever she wants at any time and with authority. There’s not a pitch you can throw her that she can’t handle. She’s very impressive.”
She also was impressive in the field as she moved from shortstop to third base.
“She was at shortstop last year, and she did a good job there, but she really shined at third base this year,” Huebbe said. “She’s really quick. I think that’s something she really improved on, and it really impressed me right off the bat. She charges the ball well. She cut across well. She took control out there.”
Pangrcic will continue her career at St. Ambrose, an NAIA school.
“I’m not sure St. Ambrose really knows what they’re getting in Maddy,” Huebbe said. “They’re getting more than they think they’re getting. She can play higher than that. If she stays with the attitude she has, and I know she will because she loves the game, and plays within herself, she’s going to dominate there. I look for big things from her.”