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posted: 3/26/2010 12:01 AM

Scouting DuPage County softball teams

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Addison Trail

Coach: Jim Llorens.

Last year: 13-20 overall, 5-7 in the West Suburban Gold; lost 7-0 to Elk Grove in Class 4A Addison Trail regional semifinal.

Top players: Katie Klco, sr., P; Tina Giralamo, so., 3B; Alex Santilli, jr., CF; Natalie Nowosao, jr., C; Dina Smith, so., SS; Jessica Steidele, so., RF; Ariann Hawkins, so., 2B; Heather Disilvestro, fr., LF.

Scouting report: What appears to be a bright future in Addison gets a jump start. Llorens expects to start three sophomores and a freshman and is anxious about next year's incoming freshmen. Junkball pitching Klco, coming back from a bout of asthma, went 11-14 with a 2.76 ERA last year in 26 games. Giralamo hit .333 with 21 RBI. Strong-armed center fielder Santilli had 3 assists. The speedy duo of Steidele and Disilvestro, a lefty who can bunt or slap, will flank Santilli. Hawkins was a standout outfielder for last year's JV team and moves to second. "Starting last year and continuing next year we have three outstanding freshman classes," Llorens said.


Coach: Jerry Schilf.

Last year: 31-6 overall, 18-2 (first) in the East Suburban Catholic Conference; lost 1-0 to Naperville Central in Class 4A Neuqua Valley sectional semifinal.

Top players: Allyson Stats, jr., P; Lauren Ladowski, sr., SS; Mikayla Panko, jr., CF; Lindsey Rohan, sr., LF; Kelsey Wirth, sr., C; Shellie Schaffer, jr, 2B; Kendall Duffy, so., 3B/C; Nora McGuire, jr., 1B; Meghan Keating, sr., P.

Trading card gallery

Scouting report: Eleventh-year coach Schilf believes this group could be just as good as the one that set a school record for wins last spring. It starts with Staats, who slides in as the No. 1 pitcher after going 8-1 behind Meghan Eastman as a sophomore. She'll also hit third after batting .348 with 34 RBI and 22 extra-base hits. There are few, if any, easy outs in the Redwings' lineup. Ladowski, expected to anchor the infield in her second varsity season, hit .356 and scored 27 runs out of the No. 9 hole last year. Three-year starter Panko hit .330 with 29 RBI and 27 runs scored. Nora McGuire could easily hit double-digit homers this year. "Can we be as good as last year?" Schilf asked. "On paper I think we are. But so many things have to go right."

Downers Grove North

Coach: Mark Magro.

Last year: 15-17 overall, 5-7 (fifth) in the West Suburban Silver; lost 3-1 to Hinsdale South in Class 4A Hinsdale South regional semifinal.

Top players: Kendall Ryndak, jr.; Rachel Bradley, jr.; Katie Hunzinger, jr.; Jordan Krejci, jr.; Jenna Gonzales, sr.; Elaine Heflin, fr.

Scouting report: Magro is cautiously optimistic this spring. A roster dominated by juniors and freshmen lends even further optimism for the future. Magro expects a breakout third varsity season from Ryndak, the ace pitcher and No. 3 hitter. "She's matured a little bit," he said, "and knows her role." Magro has been awaiting the arrival of tall lefty Heflin since she took a ball out of Doernhoefer Park as a sixth-grader. On the mound she already tops 60 mph with a nice changeup. The Trojans lineup boasts four lefties - three of them slappers and the other Heflin. "We shall see," said Magro, targeting the school record 22 wins. "If we play up to our potential we can be very good."

Downers Grove South

Coach: Ron Havelka.

Last year: 23-10 overall, 11-1 (first) in the West Suburban Gold; lost 4-1 to Hinsdale South in Class 4A Hinsdale South regional final.

Top players: Marissa Mersch, jr., CF: Katie LaCivita, so., C; Alyssa Magallanes, jr., DH/3B; Dana Gaul, sr., 2B; Katie Talbot, sr., P; Jenny Nichols, sr., P; Michelle Lisy, sr., P; Danielle Trezzo, sr., SS.

Scouting report: Havelka was tipped off by a writer to the news that he is five wins away from No. 500. To be sure, Havelka knows plenty about winning. It shouldn't be any different his 18th year in Downers Grove. It starts with leadoff hitter Mersch, committed to Loyola. Mersch has 107 hits in two seasons and hit .487 last year with 17 doubles, 5 homers, 40 runs scored and 20 RBI. LaCivita, who hit .333 as a freshman, moves from outfield to catcher. Magallenes hit over .400 as a DH last year. Talbot returns from a hairline fracture in her ulna that sidelined her all last spring. "If our pitching comes around and we play good defense," Havelka said, "we should be OK."


Coach: Dave Mello.

Last year: 10-27 overall, 0-9 (fourth) in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost 11-0 to Riverside-Brookfield in Class 3A Fenton regional final.

Top players: Marissa Santagata, sr., 3B; Tara Lawson, jr., 1B; Marissa Vazquez, so., P; Kelly Welch, so., C; Taylor Pugliese, so., 2B.

Scouting report: School starts with 5 a.m. practice for a green roster featuring 10 sophomores or freshmen and just one senior. Ever enthusiastic remains Mello. "It's by far the most fun I've had," he said. "Every day is a teaching and learning experience." Most of the girls came up through the park district program but got their feet weet playing 40-plus games of travel softball together last summer. The Bison will lean heavily on the returning sophomore battery of Vazquez and Welch. Vazquez will also bat leadoff. Santagata, a jack-of-all-trades last year, should stay entrenched at third base. Second baseman Pugliese, primarily a slapper last year, will be counted on to hit away more often. Lawson hit .350 over the summer.

Glenbard East

Coach: Valerie Pinzker.

Last year: 7-25 overall, 1-13 (eighth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost 3-2 to Addison Trail in Class 4A Addison Trail regional quarterfinal.

Top players: Michele Graham, sr., 3B; Jenna Camp, jr., 2B; Michaela Stranski, jr., 1B/C; Megan Shannon, jr., SS; Kara Tadda, fr., P/SS; Brittany Plimmer, fr., C; Alissa Mogavero, so., OF.

Scouting report: Pinzker is ready for a new season - and if a first-game win over Morton is any indication, a better one. "We will not be 7-25 again," she said, "that I'm pretty sure of." Reason for confidence is the core of Graham, Camp, Stranski and Shannon, who all have been with Pinzker since they were freshmen. Shannon is a compact, power-hitting shortstop. "She hits the ball hard," Pinzker said, "no matter where she hits." Lefty Camp will lead off. Tadda and Plimmer make up a mature all-freshman battery. Pinzker loves this group's chemistry. "It's been neat," she said, "to see the kids come together."

Glenbard North

Coach: Josh Sanew.

Last year: 25-7 overall, 12-2 (first) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost 2-1 to Bartlett in Class 4A Lake Park sectional semifinal.

Top players: Jenny Nelson, sr., SS; Alyssa Jasinski, jr., 3B; Lilly Fecho, so., P; Susan Lindstrom, jr., 2B; Jessica Norman, jr., OF; Natalie Shank, sr., OF; Kelsey Muller, so., OF: Bri Harn, so., OF; Alexis Simone, so., C; Lindsey Cherry, fr., P/1B.

Scouting report: After graduating the All-Area battery of Hannah Santora and Bri DiGioia, Sanew calls the defending DVC champions "under the radar." Opponents will be on the lookout. Power-hitting shortstop Nelson hit .320 with 7 homers and 22 RBI as a junior, and with Jasinski she anchors a smooth-fielding left side of the infield. Lindstrom and Shank also return in a more athletic lineup. Sanew said young catcher Simone should carry one of the Panthers' best bats. Fecho went 3-3 with a 2.20 ERA, and Sanew likens the lanky lefty to ex-West Aurora standout Stephanie Becker. Cherry carries an intimidating presence with a herky-jerky motion. "They have a chance to be a nice 1-2," Sanew said. "They both throw hard and with movement."

Glenbard South

Coach: Julie Fonda.

Last year: 24-14 overall, 12-2 (first) in the Western Sun Conference; lost to Chatham-Glenwood in Class 3A state semifinal.

Top players: Jennifer Wittenberg, jr., SS; Amanda Fazzari, sr., 3B; Brianna Meath, so., 2B; Jess Wilkes, jr., P; Jackie Wrona, jr., C; Jenny Klich, sr., OF; Danielle Chitkowski, so., P/IF/OF; Maddy Glab, sr., OF; Tess DiIorio, sr., 1B.

Scouting report: The Raiders are the only team in Class 3A or 4A to advance to state the last two seasons. Now they want to come back from East Peoria with the big prize. With nine starters back from a fourth-place finish, Glenbard South might just have what it takes. "There's kind of one goal left for this group," Fonda said, "and that's to win it all. They know a lot of things need to bounce their way for that to happen." Glenbard South returns three-fourths of its infield, led by Wittenberg (.349, 25 runs scored, 18 RBI). Second baseman Meath, who hit .360 last year with 16 RBI, should slide into the leadoff spot. Fazzari boasts a solid glove and strong arm at third. Wilkes, verbally committed Eastern Michigan, went 13-7 as a sophomore with a 1.46 ERA and 148 strikeouts. She will again pair up with Chitkowski, who is coming back from mononucleosis.

Glenbard West

Coach: Mary McGrane.

Last year: 22-15 overall, 9-3 (second) in the West Suburban Silver; lost 9-4 to St. Charles North in Class 4A Lake Park sectional semifinal.

Top players: Cassie Goggin, sr., P; Taylor Steinhilber, jr., P; Bri Wyatt, jr., OF; Michele Waggoner, jr., 2B; Dayle Comerford, jr., 1B; Rachel Hitzemann, so., OF; Kelly Borneman, so., IF/OF; Maddie Morris, so., SS; Jenna Ortega, sr., 3B.

Scouting report: A late-season Hilltoppers surge last spring culminated with an upset of No. 1 sectional seed Elk Grove in regionals. Glenbard West looks to carry that over with 10 girls returning. A setback was losing Goggin for eight weeks to a broken left wrist. Assuming pitching duties will be Steinhilber, 7-5 as a sophomore. Wyatt hit .331 with 5 doubles, 3 triples, 4 homers and 16 steals and slides over to center and into the leadoff spot. No. 3 hitter Waggoner returns after hitting .310 with 24 RBI, as does fellow junior Comerford (.291, 5 doubles). "Our girls remember that feeling they had at the end of last season," McGrane said. "We want to win conference and get further than that first sectional game."

Hinsdale Central

Coach: Lee Maciejewski

Last year: 10-23 overall, 2-10 (sixth) in the West Suburban Silver; lost 10-0 to Benet in Class 4A Naperville North regional semifinal.

Top players: Grace Amodeo, sr., C; Kathryn Klebenow, jr., CF; Jessie Parks, sr., P; Lauren Franke, sr., 3B; Leea LoPresti, sr., SS; Jen Loisell, so., OF.

Scouting report: Veteran coach Maciejewski enters his third year in Hinsdale. Injecting the enthusiam enjoyed by other Red Devils sports has been a priority, with pitching clinics and a summer camp for pre-high school players. Five starters return, but Amodeo is out with a pinched nerve near her neck. She hit .340 with 6 doubles and 13 RBI while committing just 4 errors last year. Leadoff hitter Klebenow, who hit .304 and scored 16 runs, is back for her third varsity season. So is Parks, limited to 19 games last year with a stress fracture in her right elbow. She went 2-5 with a 4.15 ERA. "Our goal is to play the best we can as often as we can," Maciejewski said.

Hinsdale South

Coach: Carrie Nelson.

Last year: 26-7 overall, 8-4 (third) in West Suburban Gold; lost to Lockport 3-1 in Class 4A Neuqua Valley sectional semifinal.

Top players: Ashley Kopp, sr., 3B/C; Amy Narotsky, jr., P; Dana Capocci, so., P/OF; Courtney Stoltz, sr., IF; Cori Coleman, jr., C; Cecie Portillo, jr., SS/3B.

Scouting report: No doubt it is a rebuilding year in Darien, with two starters among four girls returning from the team that knocked off Downers Grove South for the school's first regional title since 2004. Northern Illinois commit Kopp hit .337 with 11 doubles in the No. 3 hole while fielding at a .958 clip and will split time at catcher and third. Capocci hit .338 as a freshman, but rotator cuff surgery will sideline her for at least the season's first month. Narotsky, 8-2 who had a 1.15 ERA with 54 strikeouts, carries a bigger load as 12-game winner Carly Hinni did not come out. Portillo is a big addition in the middle of the lineup. "I think we'll be OK and competitive," Nelson said. "Every day is a learning experience."

Immaculate Conception

Coach: Frank Reaber.

Last year: 15-18 overall; lost 5-1 to Lisle in Class 2A Timothy Christian regional final.

Top players: Erin Dunne, sr., P/IF; Jocelyn Sanchez, so., CF/IF; Briana Iosco, jr., 3B/OF; Nina Vlahiotis, jr., C/3B; Nicolette Lullo, sr., 1B; Katelyn Conenna, so., SS/OF; Maria Kieliszewski, fr., C/3B.

Scouting report: An infusion of Driscoll transfers and Knights returners produced a record-breaking basketball season. It could make for a great spring, too. Reaber, for four seasons coach at Driscoll, takes over an IC team with plenty of holdovers. Iosco hit .416 with 28 RBI, Vlahiotis .355 with 32 RBI and Lullo .311 with 23 RBI. Dunne, the Knights No. 1 pitcher, won 7 games last year and also hit .323. Added to that mix is Driscoll transfer Conenna, the top player on the Highlanders last year with a .430 average, .700 slugging percentage, 7 homers and 35 RBI. "We can be pretty good," Reaber said, "if we jell together. We'll see how we come together as a team."

Lake Park

Coach: Tom Mazzie.

Last year: 20-15 overall, 13-6 in the Upstate Eight Conference; lost 3-2 to St. Chales North in Class 4A Lake Park regional final.

Top players: Carly Willert, sr., 3B; Samantha Becker, sr., 2B; Kelly Mieszala, sr., CF; Kelly Loy, sr., P; Sarah Koch, jr., SS; Angie Bates, sr., P; Alyssa Robinson, sr., RF; Vanessa Wegner, jr., C; Chelsea Gieseke, sr., OF: Chelsea Henshaw, sr., 1B.

Scouting report: Most teams would savor the kind of spring 2009 the Lancers had. But a 3-2 loss to St. Charles North snapped a string of six straight regional titles, and left what's now a senior-dominant team itching to get back out there. "We felt like we let one slip away," Mazzie said. "That left a sour taste in our mouths, and you can see it now." If Lake Park returns to East Peoria this spring, it will be on the strength of a stacked top of the lineup. Eastern Illinois signee Willert hit .495 last year with 52 hits, 36 runs scored, 22 runs batted in and 14 steals out of the No. 2 hole. She also is peerless at third base. Mieszala had a .484 on base percentage hitting leadoff and scored 28 runs. Becker hit .465 as a junior with a .551 OBP, 14 doubles and 28 RBI. While neither Kelly Loy (11-5, 1.62 ERA, 69 strikeouts) nor Angie Bates (9-7, 2.31 ERA, 59 strikeouts) boast overpowering stuff, Mazzie likes how they complement each other.


Coach: Jen Pomatto.

Last year: 27-11 overall, 10-6 (second) in Interstate Eight Conference; lost to Coal City 6-0 in Class 2A Lewis University supersectional.

Top players: Colleen Drennan, sr., C; Mackenzie Buchelt, so., SS; Melanie Early, so., OF; Bekka Houda, jr., P; Tori Harris, jr., OF.

Scouting report: How's this for a roller coaster-like three-year ride? Lisle went to state in 2007 with 29 wins, fell back to 5-20 two years ago - then rebounded big-time last spring. The Lions are intent on maintaining a steady uphill climb. "The seniors don't want to let down," Pomatto said. "They want to keep building on last year." Thirteen players back makes it a strong possibility. Drennan hit .409 in the middle of the order last year, sophomores Buchelt and Early .333, respectively, as freshmen. Pencil in Harris, a .319 hitter leading off, back atop the order. Houda emerged as an ace with a 1.12 ERA in her first varsity year at Lisle. A big barrier in conference and the playoffs still remains with Coal City and DePaul-bound ace Kirsten Verdun, but Pomatto points out "the pressure's on them. our sights are not just set on Coal City. We are hungry to play them again."


Coach: Richie Costante.

Last year: 22-7 overall, 12-2 (second) in the Suburban Catholic Conference; lost 9-4 to Riverside-Brookfield in Class 3A Glenbard South sectional semifinal.

Top players: Lara Mangialardi, sr., P; Tori Shipbaugh, so., SS; Val Pater, sr., C; Mary Fischer, jr., 2B; Kaitlin Maggiore, sr., CF; Shaylee Lewis, fr., 3B; Alexsandra Dewey, fr., OF; Emily Barg, so., OF/P; Jessica Stahelin, so., OF.

Scouting report: Costante takes over a program fresh off its second straight regional title. It's his first head coaching job, but the 31-year-old assisted for two years at Niles North and eight seasons prior to that at Downers Grove South. It helps having conference co-player of the year Mangialardi back. She went 19-5 with a 0.89 ERA, 202 strikeouts and 8 shutouts while hitting .407 with 15 RBI. Shipbaugh was Montini's top hitter as a freshman. If anything, expect an aggressive approach. "I believe in taking the extra base, bunting and running," Costance said. "We might set a record for caught stealing, but I'll take those chances. I tell the girls, 'If I send you, you go.'"

Naperville Central

Coach: Andy Nussbaum.

Last year: 31-8 overall, 10-4 (third) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost 2-0 to Edwardsville in Class 4A state semifinal.

Top players: Alyssa Wunderlich, jr., P; Megan Silke, sr., C; Kelsey Gonzalez, so., SS; Jori Gonzalez, sr., 2B; Nicole Kappelman, so., CF; Kristina Vizza, so., P/1B; Meghan Griffin, jr., 1B.

Scouting report: Redhawks ace Natalie Wunderlich has departed for Eastern Illinois - but the recipe of pitching and defense that got Naperville Central to East Peoria remains. Alyssa Wunderlich takes over the No. 1 spot after going 8-1 with a 0.74 ERA as a sophomore. "She's a little bit more of a power pitcher than Natalie," Nussbaum said. Don't sleep on Vizza, a 20-game winner at the JV level who struck out 20 in two varsity starts. The Gonzalez sisters are a sure-handed combo up the middle, Kelsey scoring a team-leading 18 runs as a freshman. Kappelman enjoyed a strong state series. Silke is the big bat in the middle of the order, driving in 19 last year. "Our main component has graduated," Nussbaum said, "but we have a lot of good experience back. They know what it takes to get there."

Naperville North

Coach: Jerry Kedziora.

Last year: 14-19 overall, 4-10 (sixth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost 2-1 to Neuqua Valley in Class 4A Naperville North regional semifinal.

Top players: Lauren Clouston, sr., P/OF; Jess Stapleton, sr., OF; Maureen Connelly, sr., C; Emily Dieckmann, jr., P/1B; Sammy Marshall, jr., CF; Kendall Vassar, jr., 3B; Caitlyn Warren, so., OF; Tara Degl'Innocenti, so., IF; Stephanie Tobin, so., OF.

Scouting report: The Huskies once again have speed to burn atop the order with Marshall. Recently committed to Western Illinois, she stole 32 bases in 36 attempts last year. "We're looking for her to get on base more," Kedziora said. "Definitely a special player with that speed." Warren can go get it in center and recorded 7 assists as a freshman. Tobin is a transfer from Hinsdale Central who started at second base last year. The Huskies hope to flip the switch from the end of last year, where 10 of their last 12 losses were by 1 run. "Hopefully, with maturity those can turn over to wins," Kedziora said.

Neuqua Valley

Coach: Elaina Tanaka.

Last year: 22-8 overall, 15-5 (second) in the Upstate Eight Conference; lost 4-1 to Benet in Class 4A Naperville North regional final.

Top players: Jenna Marsalli, sr., SS; Colleen Hohman, sr., P/1B; Leigh Nebendahl, jr., 1B; Amanda Mener, jr., OF; Kat Widup, so., OF; Chelsea Mueller, jr., OF; Jena Boudreau, jr., P/IF; Laura Godlewski, jr., C; Corinne Sheley, sr., IF; Rachel Bannister, sr., P; Katie Wido, sr., IF.

Scouting report: Tanaka, an assistant for four years under now Metea Valley coach Michelle Schmidt, takes over a vetan group hungry for its first conference and regional titles. Tanaka played at Downers Grove South. Few teams boast a better 1-2 punch than Kansas commit Hohman, 16-6 with a 0.68 ERA and 250 strikeouts while batting .421 with 7 homers, and UIC recruit Marsalli, who hit .472 with 7 homers and 39 RBI. "Those two really want something amazing to happen this year," Tanaka said of her four-year starters. "They've put their blood, sweat and tears into this program." Nebendahl, committed to Toledo, is another big bat. Expect Tanaka to take more advantage of speed atop the order with .442 hitter Mener and Widup.

St. Francis

Coach: Ralph Remus.

Last year: 27-7 overall, 13-1 (first) in the Suburban Catholic Conference; lost 4-0 to Glenbard South in Class 3A Glenbard South sectional semifinal.

Top players: Kelcey Fabianski, sr., 3B; Therese Kerr, sr., 1B/P; Taylor Ronchetto, jr., P; Paige Davis, jr., SS; Bri Pasquale, so., 2B; Emily Karpinski, jr., C; Laura Behnke, jr., CF; Lauren Gorski, jr., LF; Blaine Carragher, so., C-RF.

Scouting report: The Spartans won't sneak up on anybody this spring. Coming off a season that featured a 15-game win streak, St. Francis brings back the bulk of a hard-hitting lineup and ace Ronchetto. The Spartans' top six hitters all hit over .300 last year. Pasquale hit over .400 as a freshman and moves to No. 3 behind Davis and Fabianski. "She's a kid I can't get enough at bats," Remus said. Behnke belted a grand slam in the season opener. St. Francis beefed up its schedule with a few more 4A schools, notably Wheaton Warrenville South. "This is probably the best offensive team we've had," Remus said. "But other teams will be looking out for us."

Timothy Christian

Coach: Bruce Berens.

Last year: 16-12 overall; lost to Immaculate Conception 1-0 in Class 2A Timothy Christian regional semifinal.

Top players: Christina Lemon, 3B; Janna Strodtman, sr. P; Emily Heyboer, sr., 2B; Kari LeGrand, jr., SS; Audie Smith, sr., C; Ashley Tameling, sr, 1B.

Scouting report: New coach, new league (the Metro Suburban) for the Trojans. But Timothy Christian will still go as far as Strodtman will carry them. She won 14 games as a junior while hitting .510. "She is that A+ player that sets a great expectation but is not overbearing," said Berens, who coached for five years in the Wheaton Briarcliff club league. Lemon hit .330 with a .560 slugging percentage anchoring the lineup. LeGrand, all-conference in basketball, brings athleticism. "The new conference is going to be a challenge for our girls," Berens said. "We're hoping that that level of competition builds our abilities and builds expectations for ourselves."

Waubonsie Valley

Coach: Jennifer Jennings.

Last year: 12-21 overall, 8-12 (sixth) in the Upstate Eight Conference; lost to Lockport 3-0 in Class 4A Lockport regional semifinal.

Top players: Haylie Wensel, so.; Jackie Kreiner, jr.; Lindsey Jozefowicz, sr., P; Erica Price, sr.; Rebecca Randall, sr.; Lauren Thresh, sr., P; Kara Weiss, sr.; Ryane Pappa, sr.; Brianna Price, sr.

Scouting report: Jennings takes over for Kris Kalivas, who moved over to Metea Valley. Jennings isn't new to the coaching ranks, though, now in her 22nd year after stops at Luther North, IMSA and West Aurora. Jennings inherits a Warriors team deep with pitching. Jozefowicz and Thresh were Waubonsie's top two pitchers last year and are joined by Randall and Brianna Price. An experienced Warriors team features nine seniors and promising sophomore Wensel in her second varsity season at second base. Jennings wants her girls to play softball with a "chess" mentality. "I want them to be proactive," she said, "rather than reactive."

West Chicago

Coach: Emily Johnson.

Last year: 27-6 overall, 11-3 (second) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost 8-6 to Bartlett in Class 4A Schaumburg regional final.

Top players: Mary Connolly, jr., P; Izzy Bruce, sr., SS; Kaity Olsen, sr., C; Jessica Wood, so., CF; Taylor Kutilek, sr., OF: Rachel Venchuz, so., C; Aly Taddeucci, sr., 1B; Taylor Dash, sr., LF.

Scouting report: After an upset loss in regionals last year, the Wildcats won't be satisfied with anything less than a trip to East Peoria. Even for a program that's never won a sectional, it isn't far-fetched. It starts with DePaul recruit and third-year ace Connolly, who went 22-4 with a 0.54 ERA and area-best 259 strikeouts and 12 shutouts as a sophomore. "She's definitely quicker, which she needs to be. I bet she's hitting 65 (mph)," Johnson said. "She's got stronger." Slick-fielding Bruce is a highlight waiting to happen at shortstop. Olsen should play more at second base, moving leadoff hitter Wood to center field. West Chicago beefed up its nonconference schedule with Lake Park, Lockport and Glenbard South. "They're determined to win state. The mindset has to be there," Johnson said.

Wheaton Academy

Coach: Todd Starowitz.

Last year: 12-17 overall, 8-8 in Private School League; lost to Montini 7-0 in Class 3A Montini regional final.

Top players: Olivia Tilly, sr., C; Bekah Heubner, so., SS/OF; Paige Huizenga, jr., P/IF; Alison Koch, sr., 3B; Caitlin Koehler, so., 2B; Julia Kolanowski, sr., OF/SS; Kim Olson, so., P/IF; Ashley Pivaronas, sr., OF; Bitsy Weaver, so., 1B.

Scouting report: Second-year coach Starowitz has a growing program - literally. Wheaton Academy began practice in March 2009 with eight players on its roster. Now the program has 30 players, including seven returning starters. Tilly, all-PSL as a freshman and sophomore, gives the Warriors a big boost after not going out as a junior. Weaver and Olson enjoyed nice debuts as freshmen last year, Weaver hitting .429 with 8 doubles and 2 triples and Olson striking out 101 batters in 87 innings. Olson, whom Starowitz projects to hit double-digit homers before her career is out, is coming back from a broken tibia suffered in the fall. Huizenga hit .386 with 20 RBI, striking out 82 with just 12 walks in 79 innings last year. Kolanowki struck out just 8 times. "We have a long way to go," Starowitz said, "but I like the way we're headed."

Wheaton North

Coach: Karen Calabrese.

Last year: 21-10 overall, 9-5 (fourth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost 9-3 to Glenbard West in Class 4A Addison Trail regional semifinal.

Top players: Paige Wilson, jr., SS; Rachel Holaway, jr., 2B; Kelsey Ullrich, jr., 1B; Paige Evangelista, jr., C; Elisabeth Holaway, sr., CF; Kahla Nolan, jr., P; Katie Thornton, so., LF.

Scouting report: Coming off a solid season that included a DVC sweep of state semifinalist Naperville Central, Calabrese believes this junior-dominant group can be her most competitive. Wilson, verbally committed to Georgia, hit .493 with 6 doubles, 4 triples and 12 steals despite missing a good portion of the season's end with a broken shin. "She has the intangibles you can't coach," Calabrese said. Power-hitting first baseman Ullrich homered in Wheaton North's first game. Rachel Holaway is the cleanup hitter in a potent middle to the lineup. Elisabeth Holaway returns for her second year leading off. Nolan starts her third season on the mound. "If these girls play to their abilities," Calabrese said, "we should have a very competitive team."

Wheaton Warrenville South

Coach: Denise McCance.

Last year: 11-21 overall; lost 1-0 to West Aurora in Class 4A West Aurora regional semifinal.

Top players: Timmie Rappe, jr., LF; Jess Wasser, sr., CF; Katie Ottolin, sr., 1B; Kristy Santora, RF; Hannah Granger, jr., 3B; Julianne LaFleur, sr., P; Sarah Skurla, jr., 2B; Megan Zablock, C; Bekah Munday, jr., SS.

Scouting report: A well-played 1-0 loss to Glenbard South in the season opener shows the Tigers can compete with the area's best. Now they need to get over the hump to win those close ones. LaFleur returns for her second year as WW South's ace. Granger is a slick-fielding third baseman. DVC golf champion Skurla and Munday are also back in the infield. Wasser has a cannon of an arm in center. Three-sport athlete Ottolin, solid for WW South's resurgent basketball team, knocked in 3 runs in the Tigers first win. Zablock gets the call behind the plate after last year's catcher, Krysta Watts, tore her ACL toward the end of basketball season.


Coach: Rachel Karos.

Last year: 8-27 overall, 3-7 in the West Suburban Gold; lost 4-0 to Conant in Class 4A St. Charles East regional quarterfinal.

Top players: Nicole Interrante, sr., 3B; Michelle Interrante, sr., P; Taylor Ryan, sr., SS; Dana Campagna, jr., 2B.

Scouting report: Karos, a 2001 Naperville North graduate who played shortstop there and third base at Eastern Illinois, is eager for her first shot as a head coach. An assistant last year, she swaps spots with Jim White. "It's always been a goal of mine to have my own varsity program," Karos said. "Mr. White has made it very easy to step in." Willowbrook brings back six seniors, three of them returning starters. Michelle Interrante will once again be the No. 1 pitcher, Karos noting "her record doesn't show how effective she has been." Nicole Interrante should be one of the league's top hitters. Karos loves the pure talent Ryan possesses. "We have some girls that play outside the program now," Karos said. "That experience helps."


Coach: Tom Babyar.

Last year: 20-17 overall, 7-5 in the West Suburban Silver; lost 10-0 to Lake Park in Class 4A Lake Park regional semifinal.

Top players: Charlene Osmanski, sr., 1B/P/C; Tessa Kroll, so., P; Katelyn Wudel, sr., CF; Sophia Kelly, jr., RF; Jordan Woll, sr., P; Jenny McDunn, jr., 2B; Ellen Barry, fr., SS; Mary Carol Sullivan, jr., C.

Scouting report: The Dukes graduated nine seniors, including all-area catcher Gina Knutson. But Babyar likes this group's chemistry. Osmanski was an all-conference first baseman and also figures in the mix on the mound. Kroll injured her arm in travel softball; when she returns to pitching is uncertain but she will hit fifth. Wudel will play center and lead off. Kelly hit .330 in 11 games after being called up to varsity last spring. Babyar figures this group will score runs. "It's just how good is our defense going to be," he said. "Defense is going to be so much more important this year. How good our defense is will be huge for us."