Softball notes: Huntley looks to continue FVC dominance with pitching committee

Burlington Central wins Larkin Slugfest; Marengo puts up home runs at amazing pace

Huntley pitcher Makayla Rasumussen delivers against St. Charles East on Thursday, March 28, 2024 in St. Charles.

Huntley dropped only its second Fox Valley Conference game since the start of the 2021 season early last week when Prairie Ridge sophomore Reese Mosolino no-hit the Red Raiders in a 1-0 win.

Before that, Huntley had lost one of its previous 54 FVC games, going 18-0 in 2021 and 2022 and 17-1 last spring.

Despite some heavy losses to graduation and the early-season setback, the Raiders have done plenty to maintain their status as one of the top teams in the FVC and area. Huntley won in its next three FVC games and topped Harvard and Lincoln-Way on East on Saturday at the Marengo Tournament to improve to 11-4.

What might look a little different this year for Huntley is its pitching staff.

The Raiders primarily have used one starting pitcher as a workhorse in recent years, including Tiffany Giese, Briana Bower (now at Illinois), Jori Heard (South Carolina) and last spring with Juliana Maude (North Central College).

That isn’t case this year, with the Raiders using a committee approach.

Huntley has used four pitchers this spring, with juniors Gretchen Huber and Alyssa Bonner and sophomores Makayla Rasmussen and Keely Fewell getting time in the circle. Rasmussen has the most varsity experience after pitching as a freshman.

Huber was the tough-luck loser against Prairie Ridge, firing 10 strikeouts in seven innings with only one run allowed. The next day, she had seven Ks in a complete-game shutout against Crystal Lake Central.

Coach Mark Petryniec, who recently earned his 450th career win, has been pleased with the performance of all his pitchers. The Raiders still will rely on small ball on offense, meaning it’s important for their pitchers to keep them in games.

They’ve done a great job of that so far.

“We have four arms in our stable, so it’s just a matter of who we think is going to match up best against our opponent,” Petryniec said. “So far, all of the girls have done a really good job of keeping us in games. We’re very happy. They’re doing everything we’ve asked of them and more.”

Huntley has won the past three FVC championships, so nobody is going to look past them.

“We may not have a Bri or Jori anymore, but we still expect to be in every game,” Petryniec said.

Rockets win Larkin Slugfest: Burlington Central first-year coach Bill Morrow went into Saturday’s Larkin Slugfest with expectations to win the whole thing, and that is exactly what the Rockets did. Central (9-6) went 3-0 with wins over Elgin (10-1), Dundee-Crown (8-3) and Hampshire (8-7).

Freshman shortstop Mei Shirokawa has provided a big boost for the Rockets. She hit .458 last week with two homers and 10 RBIs.

Morrow is happy with the way his team has performed, already matching last season’s win total, but said there still is plenty of work to be done.

He emphasizes defense and not compounding mistakes, something that has plagued the Rockets in the past.

“I’ve really studied the game a lot defensively,” Morrow said. “I guess, in my mind, if [the other team] doesn’t score, they can’t win. So I try to minimize errors and try to help them out in ways to not just make the outs, so if a ball is hit on the infield, let’s keep it on the infield.”

Going, going, gone: At one point this season, Marengo coach Dwain Nance told his players that they can’t rely so much on the home run. The Indians’ home run barrage hasn’t slowed down one bit.

Marengo (14-3) already has 43 home runs after hitting 28 last year. Sophomore shortstop Gabby Christopher has 14 homers and is three away from tying the program’s single-season record. Veronica Ruelius, now an assistant coach with the Indians, and Mariah Dionne hold the record with 17.

Marengo’s Lilly Kunzer homers to clinch a win against Harvard in varsity softball at Marengo Thursday.

Marengo has five of the area’s top seven players in home runs. Lilly Kunzer has nine, Mia Feidt and AJ Pollnow have five each and Kylee Jensen has four.

At this pace, Marengo has a great shot at entering the IHSA record books. Rockridge’s 55 home runs in 2022 rank as the 20th most in state history. Barrington’s 58 last year is tied for 15th. Marist holds the record with 93, set last year.

400-K club: Richmond-Burton junior pitcher Hailey Holtz surpassed 400 career strikeouts in her team’s 4-1 KRC win against Sandwich on Tuesday. Holtz, who is committed to Iowa State, posted 13 strikeouts and allowed one unearned run in a complete game.

The Rockets are off to an 11-4 start and trail KRC leader Marengo by a game. R-B plays at Marengo Tuesday in their first of two conference matchups.

Grand slam: McHenry’s Maddie Gillund connected for her first two home runs of the season on back-to-back days, and she did it in grand fashion.

The Warriors’ senior left fielder hit a grand slam Friday in an 18-1 win against Grayslake North. The next day, she did it again in a 11-1 win against Guilford. Gillund, the team’s No. 9 hitter, had nine RBIs in the two games.

Hornets stay positive: Harvard had a breakthrough season in 2023, tying R-B for runner-up in the KRC and coming close to winning its first regional championship since 2011.

The Hornets’ resurgence was led by Belmont commit Tallulah Eichholz, who racked up 239 strikeouts as a sophomore, including 18 in a 1-0 loss to Kaneland in a Class 3A regional final.

Harvard has struggled to a 1-9 record so far but has kept things positive.

“The record isn’t what we want it to be, and we’ve been working really hard,” Harvard coach Becky Edinger said. “The kids have really been doing the work and staying positive. There are nights where we hit great right at people. Sooner or later, things are going to break.”