Softball: Lincoln-Way Central’s Bella Dimitrijevic named Herald-News Player of the Year

Knights’ standout will play for Croatian National Team in September

Lincoln-Way Central’s Lisabella Dimitrijevic delivers a pitch against Lincoln-Way West on Tuesday, May 14, 2024 in New Lenox.

Not only has Lincoln-Way Central junior Bella Dimitrijevic made herself known throughout the state and country with her softball talent, but soon she will take that talent overseas.

Dimitrijevic finished the 2024 season with numbers that appear to be misprints, but they aren’t. She helped lead the Knights to a 33-5 record and a Class 4A sectional championship before losing to eventual state runner-up Marist in a supersectional. Dimitrijevic went 26-3 with two saves. In 169⅔ innings, she allowed just 13 earned runs for a 0.54 ERA. She struck out 354 batters and held opponents to a .088 batting average.

She also batted cleanup in the Lincoln-Way Central order and hit .412 with 11 doubles, eight home runs and 43 RBIs. For her efforts, she was named Herald-News Player of the Year. She also earned First Team All-State honors by the Illinois Coaches Association and was named Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year.

From Sept. 1-7 of this year, she will take part in the Women’s Softball European Championship in Amsterdam as a member of the Croatian National Team.

“My dad [Alex] was born and raised in Croatia,” Dimitrijevic said. “He has a friend that knows the coach of the national team and got in touch with him, and I got on the team.

“It’s exciting to be a part of it. I don’t speak Croatian at all, maybe just a few words. But there are a couple of other American girls that will be on the team that are both from California, so at least I will have some people to talk to.”

Lincoln-Way Central’s Lisabella Dimitrijevic keeps her eyes on the ground at the stat of her delivery against Lincoln-Way East in the Class 4A Lincoln-Way Central Sectional semifinal on Wednesday, May 29, 2024 in New Lenox.

Dimitrijevic said she will go to Paris for a couple of days before the tournament before heading to Amsterdam to meet her teammates and play.

“It will be a little different to just come in and meet the team for the first time and start playing,” she said. “But I am excited for it to happen.”

Dimitrijevic already has committed to Florida State University and hopes to finish her high school career next season with another deep postseason run.

“Coming into this season, we thought we would be pretty good,” she said. “As the season went on, we realized that we were really good.

“Every team’s goal at the start of the season is to win state, so that will be our goal next year. But we aren’t going to make it all about that. We will take things one game at a time and hope to be playing our best at the end of the year. If we do that, things will take care of themselves.”

Dimitrijevic started her high school career at Lincoln-Way Central behind Lyndsey Grein, who went on to Virginia Tech and has since transferred to Oregon. She has been the No. 1 pitcher for the Knights for the past two seasons.

When she started, Dimitrijevic had a devastating rise ball that was extremely difficult to hit, even if the hitter knew it was coming. She has since added a couple of pitches that make it even harder.

“I added a drop this year and used it quite a bit, along with a changeup,” she said. “It seemed to work pretty well.

“I learned a lot from Lyndsey when she was here, especially about leadership. I am not as vocal of a leader as she was, but she definitely helped me become a leader.”

Lincoln-Way Central’s Lisabella Dimitrijevic, right, is greeted by her catcher Lucy Cameron after the Knights win against Lincoln-Way East in the Class 4A Lincoln-Way Central Sectional semifinal on Wednesday, May 29, 2024 in New Lenox.

Lincoln-Way Central coach Jeff Tarala knows how fortunate he is to have someone like Dimitrijevic on his team.

“She is so easy to coach,” Tarala said. “With her it’s more managing her than coaching her. What am I going to tell her about pitching that she doesn’t already know? I try to manage her innings, try to pick out games in our schedule that maybe she can not pitch and just DH.

“We are also big believers here that the kids call the pitches. She and [catcher] Lucy Cameron really had a good chemistry and worked well together.

“One of the biggest things about Bella is that even on days when she doesn’t have her best stuff – maybe she isn’t throwing as hard or doesn’t have her usual movement or is struggling with her control – she is still able to find a way to get it done.”

One game that stood out for Dimitrijevic this season was the sectional championship against Lockport. She gave up a rare first-inning run, but her teammates provided the offense to come back and win the game.

“That sectional game, we were in a situation we weren’t usually in,” she said. “We were behind. I gave up a run in the first inning, but I knew that was all I was going to give up. The team did a great job of coming back and winning that game.”