Softball notes: Richmond-Burton off to strong start after memorable season

Rockets start season 4-0, catcher Taylor Davison has 4 home runs

Richmond-Burton’s Taylor Davison celebrates her game winning home run during a non-conference softball game against Cary-Grove Tuesday, March 21, 2023, at Cary-Grove High School.

Richmond-Burton finished a win short of its first state tournament appearance last season with a 1-0 loss to Rockridge in the Class 2A EastSide Centre Supersectional.

Rockridge went on to win a state championship and currently is on a state-record 70-game winning streak. The Rockets finished 20-6 and still remember the loss that ended last season.

“Unfinished business is our theme,” Rockets second-year coach Tylar Stanton said. “One more run, one more win, that’s all it takes. That was our motto last year, and we had to bring it back. This team is ready. This group is ready for another run.”

The Rockets still had a lot to be proud of last season, winning their first sectional championship since 2002, fourth regional title in five seasons and third straight Kishwaukee River Conference title.

Senior catcher Taylor Davison, last year’s Kishwaukee River Conference Player of the Year, is off to a strong start with four homers in her first four games. The Syracuse commit hit a walk-off home run in the Rockets’ 6-5 win in eight innings against Cary-Grove to open the season.

Last season, Davison had 12 homers in 26 games. She said last year’s loss to Rockridge was a wakeup call for everybody.

“We want to make it to state,” Davison said. “And we want to win state. Last year’s loss hurt. Now we know what it takes. We want to make it farther than we did last season. All our sophomores have matured a lot and everybody’s gotten better, even the coaching.

“It’s been awesome. I think this is going to be our year.”

Richmond-Burton has two strong pitching options in sophomores Hailey Holtz and Madison Kunzer, and both already have made an impact this season. Holtz was dominant in the circle as a freshman, going 16-3 with a 1.18 ERA and 226 strikeouts in 136 2/3 innings.

Kunzer has three wins and a save in R-B’s first four games.

Stanton knows the Rockets (4-0) may not sneak up on teams this season, but they’ll be ready for whatever comes their way. R-B so far has wins over C-G, Belvidere North, Montini and Burlington Central.

“Unfinished business, that’s our focus this year,” Stanton said. “We believe we’re capable of big things. We just have to go out and prove it.”

Turner settles in: Jacobs’ Jessica Turner is one of six new coaches in the Northwest Herald area this spring, joining Lauren King (Burlington Central), Sara Markelonis (Crystal Lake South), Matthew Goetz (Dundee-Crown), Scott Busam (Prairie Ridge) and Katie McKay Phillips (Johnsburg).

Jacobs coach Jessica Turner talks to her players during a non-conference softball game against Palatine Monday, March 20, 2023, at Palatine High School.

Turner, who was a varsity assistant at Huntley last year, has settled in nicely at her new school.

“It’s been interesting,” said Turner a 2015 Marengo graduate. “I’m as nervous as they are, but I’m excited for them. I’m just excited for this new adventure. ... They’ve bought in and made it so comfortable for me. They’re super easy to coach.”

Turner said players such as senior Taylor Stennett, who had a first-inning homer in a season-opening loss to Palatine, have made the transition easy.

“She definitely sets the tone,” Turner said. “Not just with that home run, but she’s a voice. I said from Day 1 of tryouts, ‘That girl, I love her energy.’ She brings a real positive energy. She’s one of the loudest in our dugout.”

Busam adjusts to life at Prairie Ridge: Busam has had lots of coaching experience, leading Crystal Lake South to 285 wins in 15 seasons between 2005 and 2019, but even Prairie Ridges’ first-year coach gets a little jumpy before Opening Day.

“I’ve been anxious and nervous,” said Busam, whose Wolves (1-1) beat Grayslake North 14-1 last week. “It’s not like riding a bike. It’s a whole new group of girls and a whole new environment. I feel like a new coach again. And it felt good to get a win going into [spring] break.”

Junior center fielder Emily Harlow said the players and coaches have gotten along real well.

“It’s a really tight group, really close,” Harlow said. “We’re super trusting in each other, and we’re all very excited.”

Sister act: Sisters’ Maddy and Gabby Christopher will have plenty of chances to team as top-of-the order hitters for Marengo (2-0) this spring. Maddy, a senior center fielder, hits leadoff, and Gabby, a freshman shortstop, has hit in the No. 3 spot in their first two games.

Maddy and Gabby are off to strong starts at the plate and in the field. Maddy, who will play next year at NCAA Division I Morehead State, has a triple, three stolen bases, three runs scored and two RBIs, and Gabby has two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored.

Maddy Christopher climbed the fence to rob a home run in a 9-2 win over Stillman Valley in the Indians’ season opener.