2023-24 Herald-News softball preview capsules

Joliet West’s Brooke Schwall connects for a 4 run blast in the first inning against Joliet Central on Monday, May 15, 2023 in Joliet.

With softball season set to begin Monday – weather permitting, of course – here is a look at teams across the Herald-News coverage area.


Coach: Chris DeSanto

Last season’s record: 2-27

Top returners: Karina Choi, jr., OF; Makenzie McGrath, jr., P/1B/3B; Emma King, so., P/1B; Diamond Samuels, sr., OF

Top newcomers: Kaleigh Cawthon, so., SS; Carly Schopp, so., 2B/OF; Anayiah Gregory, so., 1B/3B

Worth noting: Choi hit .308 and stole 15 bases for the Raiders last season, while Samuels hit .273 with four doubles and a triple. ... Coach DeSanto: “The girls are eager to show how competitive they are going to be. We may be young [seven sophomores, five juniors, two seniors], but they are gearing up and ready to go for a fun and exciting season.”


Coach: Rodney Monbrum

Last season’s record: 29-8

Top returners: Makayla Henline, sr., SS; Makenzie Henline, sr., 2B; Jadyn Shaw, sr., OF; Mia Ferrias, sr., OF; Bre Combes, sr., P; Abbi Gagliardo, sr., IF; Khloe Picard, so., C; Masyn Kuder, so,. P; Addison Harvey, so., IF; Sierra Anderson, so., IF

Top newcomers: Kaycee Graf, jr., OF; Addison Hodgen, jr.; OF; Darcy Ness, jr.; IF/OF

Worth noting: The Coalers have won two straight regional championships. ... Coach Monbrum: “Our goals this year are to win 20-plus games, be conference champions and win a regional. We should be very competitive all season and look forward to continuing our regional championship streak.”


Coach: Dezi Leonard

Last season’s record: 16-10

Top returners: Megan Livingston, sr., SS; Averi Jury, jr., 3B; Taylor Heath, so., DH; Madi Ely, so., P; Njomza Asliani, sr., IF/OF; Avery Scheuer, sr., C/OF; Taylor Frobish, so., OF; Sarah Parker, so., IF/OF

Top newcomers: Mikayla Ely, fr., IF/OF; Miranda Bovelle, fr., IF/OF

Worth noting: Livingston hit .422 for the Trojans last season, while Jury finished with a .511 batting average. Madi Ely struck out 159 in 104 2/3 innings. ... Coach Leonard: “I am excited to get this season started and see the team’s improvement throughout the season.”


Coach: Tina Kinsella

Last season’s record: 23-11

Top returners: Wrigley Fanter, sr., C; Madison Patrick, sr., OF; Addison Fanter, jr.; IF; Addison Rizzatto, so., SS; Nina Sebahar, so., P

Worth noting: Wrigley Fanter is a four-year starter for the Angels and has committed to Lehigh University, while Patrick was named first-team all-state last season. ... Rizzatto was named second-team all-state. ... Coach Kinsella: “We picked right up where we left off on Day 1 without skipping a beat. The Angels bring a lot of senior leadership with game experience. The team is looking to make a deep playoff run.”


Coach: Jon Rashid

Last season’s record: 2-22

Top returners: Natalie Reyes, sr., IF; Haydn Voss, so., C/IF/OF; Joselyn Davenport, sr., OF/3B; Kassie Martinez, sr., P/2B

Top newcomers: Neveya Ibarra, so., C/1B; Victoria Godinez, jr., OF; Cameron Salazar, so., 3B/P; Sophie Litsogannis, so., 1B/3B/P; Elaiana Fowler, so., OF

Worth noting: Reyes has had back-to-back all-conference seasons for the Steelmen. She batted .429 last year with a .515 on-base percentage, while Voss led the team last year with a .475 average and was named all-conference. ... Coach Rashid: “We have a lot of underclassmen joining a solid group of returning players. We will continue to follow our four pillars: Work Hard, Do What’s Right, Show People You Care, and we will Do Everything to The Best of Our Ability. These pillars will help lead us to success on and off the field.”


Coach: Heather Suca

Last season’s record: 17-13

Top returners: Brooke Schwall, sr., 1B; Avery Houlihan, sr., SS; Caitlynn Barnak, sr., C; Mackenzie Farkas, sr., 2B; Hope Hughes, jr., C/3B; Madison Jadron, jr., P

Top newcomer: Ella Featherson, jr., OF

Worth noting: Schwall was second-team all-state for the Tigers after hitting .500 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs. Houlihan, who hit .367 with 15 RBIs, has signed with Notre Dame. Jadron went 16-8 with a 3.18 ERA and struck out 158 hitters. ... Coach Suca: “We are retuning nine players that played in at least half of the varsity games last year, so we are coming in with a great deal of experience. Practices are moving at a faster pace, and we are able to challenge the players more and more each day.”


Coach: Chris Traina

Last season’s record: 36-1 (1st in Class 3A)

Top returners: Raegan Duncan, sr., IF; Allison Pawlowicz, sr., IF; Avaree Taylor, sr., IF; Natalie Pacyga, jr., IF; Rhea Mardjetko, sr., P

Top newcomers: Sydney Kibbons, jr., P; Emma Kazmarski, sr., P

Worth noting: Lemont won its second straight Class 3A state title last season. ... Duncan, an SIU-Edwardsville commit, hit .432 last season. Loyola recruit Pawlowicz hit .362, but may be out for the season because of an injury. Taylor, who is committed to Truman State, hit .500 with 24 RBIs; and Pacyga, a Western Illinois recruit, hit .353 with 28 RBIs. ... Coach Traina: “Lemont softball is focused and dedicated to being a competitive team and having another strong season.”

Lincoln-Way Central's Lisabella Dimitrijevic throws a pitch against Lincoln-Way East during the conference game on Tuesday, April. 11, 2023, at Frankfort.


Coach: Jeff Tarala

Last season’s record: 27-7

Top returners: Lisabella Dimitrijevic, jr., P; Lucy Cameron, sr., C; Kendall Pearson, sr., OF; Josephine Jager, sr., IF; Alexis Youngren, sr., IF

Top newcomer: Ava Quinlan, so., IF

Worth noting: The Knights won the SouthWest Suburban Red last year with an 8-0 league mark. ... Dimitrijevic, who has committed to Florida State, was 19-4 with a 1.02 ERA last season, striking out 293 in 136 2/3 innings and hit .400 with seven homers and 23 RBIs. ... Cameron has signed to play for Wofford, Pearson has signed with Roosevelt University, Jager has signed with University of Indianapolis, and Youngren has signed with Penn. ... Coach Tarala: “We have a wealth of talent returning and are looking forward to adding talented newcomers. We have talented softball players, no doubt, but more importantly great young ladies. As a coaching staff, we could not ask for a better group to coach. We should be a competitive team this year.”


Coach: Elizabeth Hyland

Last season’s record: 27-5

Top returners: Averi Vander Woude, sr., OF; Maddie Henry, so., SS; Mackenzie Bacha, so., IF/OF

Top newcomer: Cassidy Jagielski, so., 3B

Worth noting: Vander Woude, a Loyola recruit, hit .418 with 25 stolen bases for the Griffins last season, while Henry hit .408 with five home runs. Bach hit .350 with 13 doubles. ... Coach Hyland: “We are looking forward to being tested by our opponents defensively and offensively. The key to being successful will be controlling the variables we can control.”


Coach: Heather Novak

Last season’s record: 22-13

Top returners: Reese Rourke, so., SS/P; Olivia Calderson, sr., 2B; Peyton Cusack, sr., OF/2B; Ava Murphy, sr., OF

Worth noting: Rourke hit .452 with 16 doubles, seven home runs and 22 RBIs for the Warriors last season and was 10-5 in the circle with a 2.51 ERA. ... Calderone hit .309 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs and has signed with Tennessee State. Cusack is a University of Indianapolis recruit, while Murphy hit .410 with 19 RBIs. ... Coach Novak: “We are young again, but do not lack experience. We return nine athletes to the varsity level from last year’s team. Reese Cusack, Molly Finn, Jess Noga and Paige Seivert all return for their sophomore seasons after key contributions as freshmen.”


Coach: Marissa Chovanec

Last season’s record: 31-8

Top returners: Kelcie McGraw, jr., P; Brooke Keltner, sr., C; Giuliana Giordano, sr., OF; Morgan Spodarek, sr., C/1B; Alyssa Schaffer, sr., 1B; Ava Swain, sr., 3B; Ava Kasper, sr., P/U

Top newcomers: Liliana Janeczko, jr., C; Mikayla Cvitanovich, jr., 2B; RJ Slavicek, jr., OF; Marcy Curry, jr., OF/3B; Marie Baranowski, jr., 2B

Worth noting: The Porters McGraw is committed to Colgate, while Keltner has committed to Northern Kentucky. ... Coach Chovanec: “We want to build on the momentum from last year. They keys will be to control the ball in the circle, play solid defense and score more than our opponent.”


Coach: Mark Brown

Last season’s record: 19-15

Top returners: Taylor Mackin, sr., P/2B; Madison Kelly, sr., 3B/1B; Gracie Anderson, jr., C

Top newcomers: Karli McMillin, jr., P/SS; Mayson Carr, jr., RF

Worth noting: Mackin was 13-4 with a 2.41 ERA last season for the Indians and hit .352, while Kelly hit .352 with five home runs. Anderson, a Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit, hit .330 with four home runs. ... Coach Brown: “We have a great mix of veteran seniors, impactful juniors and some talented sophomores. With a true ace in the circle with Taylor Mackin, I believe we have the chance to compete with any of the top teams in the state. As always, our goals are to reach the 20-win mark, win a conference title and be playing our best softball come late May.”


Coach: Jen Bamonte

Last season’s record: 23-12

Top returners: Alyssa Jepson, so., OF; Karson Dransfeldt, jr., 3B; Macie Ferguson, jr., SS; Elaina Vidales, sr., P/1B; Addie Hackett, so., C

Top newcomers: Halie Olson, fr., 2B; Abby Hougas, sr., OF; Mylie Hughes, so., P; Tessa Shannon, so., OF

Worth noting: Jepson hit .333 for Morris last season and will play center field after patrolling left last season, while Dransfeldt was second on the team in stolen bases and runs last year. ... Coach Bamonte: “We will be very young this year with a projected four starting sophomores and one freshman starter. Although we are young, I don’t believe this will be a rebuilding year. We will have our ups and downs, but each of these young women is ready to compete at the highest level.”


Coach: Steve Strough

Last season’s record: 10-13

Top returners: Ashley Veltman, sr., SS; Sophie Klawitter, so., P; Autumn Clay, jr., OF

Top newcomers: Payton Schnelle, fr., C; Jillian Roark, fr., UT

Worth noting: Veitman hit .474 with five home runs and 27 RBIs last season for the Blue Devils, while Klawitter struck out 165 in 103 innings with a 2.05 ERA. ... Coach Strough: “We will be a younger team working to improve throughout the season, striving to be competitive with the teams in our conference.”


Coach: Kate Welsh

Last season’s record: 10-21

Top returners: Tricia Hogrefe, sr., 3B; Jamie Crawford, jr., P/SS; Mia Johnson, sr., P/1B; McKenna Ignasak, sr., C/1B

Top newcomers: Abby English, jr., 1B; Ava Sommerfeld, jr., OF; Laney Barbic, so., OF

Worth noting: Hogrefe hit .515 for the Wildcats last season, while Crawford hit .314, Johnson hit .306, and Ignasak hit .280. ... Coach Welsh: “We are a young group this season with three freshmen [Maeve Carlton, Evalyn Prochaska, and Emma Sommerfeld] on the varsity roster. However, they are being led by three seniors who are four-year varsity players. We are returning three varsity pitchers and have a balance of speed and power at the plate.”


Coach: Jim Holba

Last season’s record: 18-13

Top returners: Abby Johnson, sr., SS/P; Grace Golebiowski, sr., OF/P; Kailee O’Sullivan, sr., P/IF; Sophia Thormeyer, sr., IF; Angelina Cole, so., IF/OF; Bella Olszta, so., IF/OF

Top newcomers: Ella Kucula jr., IF/OF; Reagen Sincak, jr., C/IF; Abbey Gaus, jr., P

Worth noting: Johnson is a four-year starter for the Celtics and is committed to Loyola. Goliebowski, another four-year starter, hit .402 with 26 stolen bases last year. O’Sullivan hit .313 with three home runs and 28 RBIs and went 7-0 in the circle. Thormeyer, a UMass-Amherst recruit, hit .341, and Cole hit .562 with 21 RBIs.


Coach: Katie O’Connell

Last season’s record: 5-20

Top returners: Juliana Anderson, sr., C; Lilly Roberts, so., P/UT; Alaina Moreno, sr., UT; Rylee Teel, jr., 1B

Top newcomer: Kasia Brandt, jr. UT

Worth noting: Anderson hit .500 for the Spartans last season and was named All-Southwest Prairie Conference. ... Coach O’Connell: “We have a great core of athletes. The season’s goal this year is to compete at the highest level in every game.”


Coach: Brian Holman

Last season’s record: 22-9-1

Top returners: Sam Vandevelde, sr., SS/3B; Alyssa Zellers, jr., SS/3B; Tessa Krull, so., P; Lexie Buis, so., C; Audry McNabb, jr., OF; Camryn Stcken, so., 1B; Taylor Mino, sr., UT

Top newcomers: Katie Arnold, sr., UT; Hannah Prohaska, jr., OF

Worth noting: Vandevelde hit .479 with five home runs last season for the Fighting Irish, while Zellers hit .429 and stole 31 bases without being thrown out. Krull went 19-4 and struck out 229 batters. ... Coach Holman: “Pitching and defense will be our strengths. We return the core of our defense up the middle and at the corners. ... We’re going to have to get better, be a little tougher and do the small things right to take the next step.”