Softball: Lincoln-Way Central’s Bella Dimitrijevic named Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year

Dimitrijevic brings award back to Herald-News area for third consecutive year

Lincoln-Way Central’s Lisabella Dimitrijevic delivers a pitch against Lincoln-Way West on Thursday, April 24, 2024 in New Lenox.

In its 39th year of honoring the nation’s most elite high school athletes, Gatorade announced recently that Bella Dimitrijevic of Lincoln-Way Central is the 2023-24 Gatorade Illinois Softball Player of the Year.

Dimitrijevic is the first Gatorade Illinois Softball Player of the Year to be chosen from Lincoln-Way Central. She is also the third consecutive winner of the award from the Herald-News coverage area, following back-to-back wins by Lemont’s Sage Mardjedko in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

The award, which celebrates the nation’s top high school athletes for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community, distinguishes Dimitrijevic as Illinois’ best high school softball player.

The 5-foot-10 junior right-handed pitcher posted a 26-3 record with a 0.54 ERA this past season, leading the Knights (33-5) to the supersectional round of the Class 4A state tournament. Dimitrijevic struck out 354 batters while allowing just 49 hits and 13 walks in 169⅔ innings pitched. At the plate, she hit .405 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs.

A member of the Croatian National Team, she will participate in the Women’s Softball European Championships in the Netherlands in September. Dimitrijevic has volunteered locally at the Bayer/Pulmonary Hypertension Association, assisting patients with limited mobility. She also has donated her time as a youth pitching instructor.

Lincoln-Way Central’s Lisabella Dimitrijevic connects for a single against Lincoln-Way East in the Class 4A Lincoln-Way Central Sectional semifinal on Wednesday, May 29, 2024 in New Lenox.

“Bella could possibly be the most dominant pitcher that I have come across in 15-plus years of coaching high school softball,” said Lincoln-Way West coach Heather Novak, who was the 2000-01 Gatorade Illinois Softball Player of the Year. “She has a truly special ability to throw with great velocity and incredible movement.”

Dimitrijevic has maintained a weighted 4.36 GPA in the classroom. She has made a verbal commitment to play softball on scholarship at Florida State University beginning in fall 2025.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball and boys and girls track and field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which leverages experts including coaches, scouts, media and others as sources to help evaluate and determine the state winners in each sport.

As part of Gatorade’s commitment to breaking down barriers in sport, every Player of the Year also receives a grant to donate to a social impact partner. To date, the Gatorade Player of the Year program has provided more than $4.9 million in grants to winners across more than 1,900 organizations.

To learn more about the Gatorade Player of the Year program, check out past winners or to nominate student-athletes, visit