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Scouting DuPage County softball

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Addison Trail

Coach: Jim Llorens.

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Last year: 10-22 overall, 3-9 in West Suburban Gold; lost to Batavia 12-1 in Class 4A West Chicago regional quarterfinal.

Top players: Natalie Nowosad, sr., C; Alex Santilli, sr., OF; Tina Giralamo, jr., 3B; Heather DiSilvestro, so., OF; Jessica Steidel, jr., IF/C; Arianne Hawkins, jr., IF; Karla DelaRosa, jr., OF; Jennifer D'Onofrio, jr., OF; Morgan Pirtle, fr., IF; Isabella Tangora, fr., OF.

Scouting report: Renovations at Addison Trail will provide a fresh look this spring -- new dugouts, new backstops, lights on the field, artificial turf in the outfield and a portable fence. Between the lines, the Blazers are building toward a better future. Addison Trail lost its best hitter, run producer and pitcher Katie Klco to graduation. The Blazers do have a nice 10-girl crop of juniors up from last year's JV team, along with three freshmen. Two of those freshmen, Pirtle and Tangora, went to U-16 Nationals with the Schaumburg Sluggers last summer. Giralamo hit .380 in nonconference games last year. DiSilvestro, a switch hitter with power, is out about five weeks with mono. Pitching is a major question mark without Klco, but Llorens expects the Blazers' defense to be better. "We're on the right track," Llorens said. "I'm excited to see what happens this year."

Benet

Coach: Jerry Schilf.

Last year: 19-17 overall, 11-9, fifth in East Suburban Catholic Conference; lost to Naperville Central 3-2 in the Class 4A Benet regional semifinal.

Top players: Mikayla Panko, sr., CF; Allyson Staats, sr., P; Maeve McGuire, so., OF: Nora McGuire, sr., 1B; Kendall Duffy, jr., C; Shellie Schaffer, sr., 2B; Ali Michalik, so., 3B; Marissa Panko, fr., SS; Julianne Rurka, fr., 3B; Molly Moran, fr., P.

Scouting report: After a record-breaking 2009 season, the Redwings were up and down last year. Don't expect that to carry over. Benet returns nearly its entire lineup, bolstered by a promising freshman group. UMass recruit Panko, who drove in a school record 39 runs last year with a .368 average, anchors a deep lineup and has a rocket of an arm in center. Maeve McGuire hit a team-best .389 as a freshman and already is being recruited by Big Ten and SEC schools. Staats' hopeful improvement in a second season throwing from 43 feet is key. Duffy returns for her third year behind the plate. Michalik, who had made strides as a slap hitter, and hot-shot freshman Rurka figure at third base and in the outfield. Marissa Panko has great range at shortstop. "What would be weaknesses for most teams shouldn't be for us at all," Schilf said. "I don't think those freshmen will wilt under pressure."

Downers Grove North.

Coach: Mark Magro.

Last year: 28-9 overall, 11-1, first in West Suburban Silver; lost to Lockport 3-0 in the Class 4A Bolingbrook sectional semifinal.

Top players: Kendall Ryndak, sr., P/OF: Katie Hunzinger, sr., SS; Carolyn Nojiri, so., 2B; Rachel Bradley, sr., OF: Sarah Anderson, sr., OF: Jenna Butler, sr., 1B; Brittany Nagy, so., 3B; Dale Ryndak, fr., P; Rowan McGuire, fr., IF/OF.

Scouting report: Here's the bad news: Elaine Heflin, who burst on the scene last year as an All-Area pitcher, is likely out for the season after injuring her back last summer. The good news? The Trojans are still two-deep strong on the mound. Kendall Ryndak went 14-7 with a 1.76 ERA and 176 strikeouts last year, and the fourth-year varsity player also hit .407. Now she's joined by kid sister Dale, who's bigger and throws harder. Hunzinger hit around .400 last year and Bradley and Nojiri are back to set the table atop the order. A pair of freshman catchers are question marks in March, but Magro said "come crunch time I think they'll be very good." McGuire's older sisters play for Benet, and she is said to have huge potential. The Trojans set a program win record last year. Even without Heflin, don't expect a step back. "If we hit this year, we could be very dangerous," Magro said.

Downers Grove South.

Coach: Ron Havelka.

Last year: 30-7 overall, 11-1, first, in West Suburban Gold; lost to Moline 8-5 in Class 4A Normal Community supersectional.

Top players: Marissa Mersch, sr., CF; Katy LaCivita, jr., C; Alyssa Magallanes, jr., 3B; Emma Topps, jr., 2B; Danielle Trezzo, jr., SS; Marissa Vazquez, jr., P; Jenny Nichols, jr., 1B/P; Aleisha Bozek, jr., P/1B.

Scouting report: The Mustangs were two outs away from advancing to state last spring -- so the motivation is clear for six returning starters. Wisconsin-bound Mersch, who hit .532 last year with 20 doubles and 52 runs scored, leads off in a stacked lineup. Mersch's 181 career hits are 5 shy of Brooke Andresen and Lauren Meister's school record; a big season could put her near the state record of 252. Loyola recruit LaCivita hit .398 with 8 homers and 33 RBI last year and is one of the state's elite catchers. Trezzo and Magallanes bring big bats to the left side of the infield, and Topps moves from the outfield to second base. Bozek will lead a pitcher by committee with Fenton transfer Vazquez and Nichols, who will also play first base. "People are going to put the ball in play on us," Havelka said. "We have to catch the ball and make the plays."

Fenton

Coach: Dave Mello.

Last year: 15-23 overall, 4-11, fourth in Metro Suburban Conference; lost to Guerin 2-1 in Class 3A Elmwood Park sectional semifinal.

Top players: Kelly Welch, jr., C; Sarah Overlin, jr., SS; Tara Lawson, sr., 1B; Taylor Pugliese, jr., LF; Candice Rivera, sr., OF; Hannah Wassman, fr., U; Nicole Susmarski, fr., 3B; Franki Simoncelli, jr., 3B; Kelly Kielbasa, so., DP; Stephanie Susmarski, jr., DP.

Scouting report: The Bison's rallying cry this spring is "Take the next step" as Fenton searches for its first sectional win. Mello expects this lineup to be the best in his four years, led by Welch, Overlin and Lawson. With ace Marissa Vazquez transferring to Downers Grove South, it's on junior Alyssa Ciepley and sophomore Juliana LaSala to fill the void. Defense will be extra important. Fenton's demanding nonconference schedule starts next week, when the Bison travel to Disney World to play six games in a 38-team event. Fenton also added a doubleheader with defending Class 4A state runner-up Fremd. "As long as we make the plays in the field and our pitchers throw strikes," Mello said, "we should be OK."

Glenbard East

Coach: Valerie Pinzker.

Last year: 14-23 overall, 2-12 in DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Lake Park 12-0 in the Class 4A Geneva regional semifinal.

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

Scouting report: Sixth-year Rams coach Pinzker thinks "this is the year things come together for us." A good mix of experienced varsity players and young talent, 10 total returners, validate her belief. Of the five seniors, three -- Camp, Stranski and Shannon -- have been on varsity since they were freshmen. Stranski hit .456 with 11 extra-base hits and 16 RBI last year, despite missing half the season with a concussion and back issues. She's healthy now, coming off a big basketball season. Shannon hit .398 a year ago with 18 doubles, 3 triples and 32 RBI and Camp .346 with 11 doubles, 2 homers and 21 RBI. The sophomore battery of Tadda and Plimmer return, a year older and stronger. Plimmer hit .317 as a freshman and also works through calling the pitches. We're just talking about taking it step by step," Pinzker said. "We're going to get there."

Glenbard North

Coach: Josh Sanew.

Last year: 22-9 overall, 8-5, second in DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Geneva 4-1 in the Class 4A Geneva regional semifinal.

Top players: Alyssa Jasinski, sr., SS; Lilly Fecho, jr., P; Jessica Norman, RF; Susan Lindstrom, 2B; Kelsey Muller, CF; Alexis Simone, C; Ashley Stiver, C/OF: Lindsey Cherry, so., P.

Scouting report: Sanew doesn't want his group to just swing for the fences, which perhaps got the Panthers in trouble in their regional loss. "I've told them, 'Look at where that got us,'" he said. "I preach to them, 'Let's be a gap-to-gap team.'" Even losing Jenny Nelson and her 12 homers, Glenbard North should boast one of the area's deepest lineups. Jasinski, who hit .439 with 6 homers and 38 RBI, moves from third base to her summer ball position of shortstop. Promising freshman Sydney Benz slides in at third and could bat fifth. Purdue recruit Fecho, who hit .376 with 4 homers and 20 RBI last year and also won 17 games, will bat cleanup and anchor the pitching staff. Lindstrom hit .356 last year, Kelsey Muller .274 with 24 RBI, Jessica Norman .293 and Simone .250 with 20 RBI. Nipped at the wire by West Chicago, Glenbard North will be in the hunt to return to the top of the DVC. "We definitely lose some pop without Nelson," Sanew said, "but we have the potential to put up some big numbers."

Glenbard South

Coach: Julie Fonda.

Last year: 32-4 overall, 14-0, first in Western Sun Conference; lost to Trinity 6-2 in Class 3A Glenbard South sectional semifinal.

Top players: Jennifer Wittenberg, sr., SS; Brianna Meath, jr., 2B; Jessica Wilkes, sr., P; Danielle Chitkowski, jr., P; Jackie Wrona, jr., C; Jane Trzaska, so., P/IF/OF; Hannah Davey, jr., OF; Madeline Peterson, sr., IF/OF; Emma Colangelo, jr., OF; Katie Steinbach, sr., 1B/C/OF; Olivia Ramirez, jr., 3B.

Scouting report: Fonda's Raiders practiced outside eight times by March 16. With talent like this, who wouldn't want to get on the diamond? Glenbard South returns 10 starters and seeks to get back to state for the third time in four years. Eastern Michigan recruit Wilkes, who went 22-3 last year with 170 strikeouts, leads a deep pitching staff. Chitkowski battled mono and a broken wrist as a sophomore while hitting .408, but is healthy and will pitch and play first. Trzaska will also pitch, play first base and the outfield with a big middle-of-the-order bat. No area team is better than Glenbard South up the middle, with third-year starter Wittenberg back at shortstop and leadoff hitter Meath at second base. The Raiders will face potential playoff opponent Riverside-Brookfield in the Metro Suburban Conference. "Their sights are set high," Fonda said, "I harp on the little things, and they are eating it up."

Glenbard West

Coach: Mary McGrane.

Last year: 15-19 overall, 8-4 in West Suburban Silver; lost to Elk Grove 4-2 in the Class 4A Elk Grove regional semifinal.

Top players: Bri Wyatt, sr., CF: Taylor Steinhilber, sr., P; Dayle Comerford, sr., 1B; Taylor Langtry, fr., P; Maddy Morris, SS; Sarah Steinhilber, C; Kelly Borneman, U.

Scouting report: The Hilltoppers are raising the bar for expectations this spring. Chalk that up to a solid returning core and new attitude. Glenbard West feeds off the speed of leadoff hitter and Missouri-Kansas City recruit Wyatt, who hit .500 last year with 37 steals and 36 runs scored. Comerford is a vocal leader in the field who will seek more consistency at the plate this year. McGrane said Taylor Steinhilber is taking on more of a leadership role. When she hits her spots, she can be tough to beat. Morris and Sarah Steinhilber are other returnees at key positions. Injuries slowed Glenbard West last season, but the Hilltoppers started to find their groove by spring's end. McGrane feels they should pick up where they left off. "If we show up to play every day," she said, "we should be competitive."

Hinsdale Central

Coach: Lee Maciejewski.

Last year: 13-20 overall, 2-10, sixth, in West Suburban Silver; lost to Lockport 8-0 in the Class 4A East Aurora regional semifinal.

Top players: Katherine Klebenow, sr., OF: Alexa Heydenberk, so., OF/1B; Christyn Lovelace, jr., SS/2B; Lia Tahir, jr., OF: Jen Loiselle, jr., OF: Mary Somerfield, so., IF/C; Laura Gurke, so., C; Toni Gonzales, so., 3B; Lauren Daleen, fr., IF.

Scouting report: Hall of Fame coach Maciejewski, now in his fourth season in the Hinsdale Central dugout, continues to build from the ground up. The 40 girls out for softball are the most since he arrived. Klebenow is a four-year varsity starter and will hit lead off. Fellow outfielders Loiselle and Heydenberk also both have started since freshman year. Somerfield and Kelly McKenzie are both first-year varsity pitchers. Maciejewski credited assistant Al Coppersmith for running pitching clinics in Burr Ridge to get younger kids early instruction. Maciejewski feels they're ahead of the curve in his five-year plan and pledges, "I'm not going anywhere." "With each year more and more girls are getting involved," he said. "It's like planting a garden."

Hinsdale South

Coach: Kelly Van Hout.

Last year: 15-9 overall; lost to Downers Grove South 17-6 in the Class 4A Hinsdale South regional semifinal.

Top players: Amy Narotsky, sr., P; Dana Capocci, jr., OF; Aleah Trycha, sr., OF; Ceci Portillo, sr., IF; Cori Coleman, sr., IF; Lauren Cairo, so., IF; Brooke Dodson, so., IF; Jessica Andree, fr., P.

Scouting report: Van Hout, a 2000 West Chicago graduate who was a three-sport athlete and played shortstop for the Wildcats and at Carthage College, takes over at Hinsdale South. Previously she was varsity assistant at Plainfield South for four years and coached the Ridgewood JV last year. Capocci is in her third year on the varsity, Narotsky her fourth season and will be counted on to anchor the pitching. Portillo is a talented hitter. Van Hout praises her girls for their "never-say-die attitude." The Hornets put that on display Monday at Glenbard South, rallying from 7-0 down to fall just short 7-6. "It's a great group of girls. They're go-getters," Van Hout said. "They want to win more and more and seem to mesh very well."

Immaculate Conception

Coach: Frank Reaber.

Last year: 22-10 overall, 14-2, first in Suburban Christian Conference Gold; lost to Lisle 15-0 in the Class 2A Lisle regional final.

Top players: Katelyn Conenna, jr., IF/P; Briana Iosco, sr., P/IF; Jocelyn Sanchez, jr., IF/OF; Maria Kieliszewski, so., IF/OF: Nina Vlahiotis, sr., C/OF; Judy Morris, sr., IF.

Scouting report: Of this second-year coach Reaber is certain: his Knights will put runs on the board. It's easy to see why. Indiana recruit Conenna, who hit .535 last year with 47 RBI, leads a lineup that Reaber believes could score 6-10 runs per game. Iosco hit .466 a year ago with 27 RBI, Sanchez .424 with 28 stolen bases, Kieliszewski .435 with 35 RBI, Vlahiotis .437 with 22 RBI and Morris .424. Iosco, 7-3 with a 3.94 ERA last year, and Conenna will share pitching duties. Reaber's concern is defense and pitching. IC committed 11 errors in a 14-6 loss to Mt. Assisi on Monday. A daunting early schedule includes a doubleheader with defending Class 3A runner-up Trinity. If the Knights can weather the early storm, the school record of 24 wins isn't out of the question. "We're definitely going to put some runs on the board," Reaber said. "It's how many we give back that concerns me."

Lake Park

Coach: Tom Mazzie.

Last year: 27-10 overall, 14-5, third in Upstate Eight Conference; lost to Geneva 4-2 in Class 4A Geneva regional final.

Top players: Sarah Koch, sr., SS/1B; Vanessa Wegner, sr., C/1B; Gina Castiglione, sr., 2B/OF; Stephanie Starr, so., OF; Shannon Fritsche, so., 3B; Lisa Baumgart, sr., P/OF; Marilyn Perry, so., P/IF; Jenna Schweizer, so., P; Stephanie Aronson, jr., OF: Tara Palandri, jr., OF.

Scouting report: What some would label a rebuilding year Mazzie is calling "a season of opportunity." Gone are eight starters, six now playing collegiately. It's a clean slate, but the cupboard isn't bare. Benedictine recruit Koch hit .333 with 7 doubles, 7 homers and was second on the team with 33 RBI. Aurora University commit Wegner hit .369 with 7 homers and 29 RBI. Castiglione, who hit .315 last year with a grand slam in regionals, will hopefully be back by May after breaking an ankle during fall softball. Starr has a cannon of an arm. Mazzie said promising sophomore Fritsche "looke like Carly Willert at third" if perhaps a step slower. Perry, Baumgart and Schweizer will share time on the mound. An addition to the coaching staff is former West Chicago coach and pitching instructor Emily Johnson. "We're gonna go under the radar because nobody knows these girls," Mazzie said, "but I truly feel we are not going to skip too much of a beat."

Lisle

Coach: Jen Pomatto.

Last year: 22-10 overall, 10-5, second in Interstate Eight Conference; lost to Morrison 3-1 in Class 2A DeKalb supersectional.

Top players: Mackenzie Buchelt, jr., SS; Melanie Early, jr., CF/P; Bekka Houda, sr., P; Stephanie Petkovsek, 1B; Shelby Kretman, 2B; Grace Riley, C; Tori Harris, OF; Summer Stitt, fr., IF/OF; Kelly Brennan, jr., OF; Emma Buchholz, jr, IF.

Scouting report: The Lions, ousted in the supersectionals the last two years, are hungry to return to state. The pieces are in place. Lisle lost just three starters, and returns a core group -- many among a junior class that went to state as eighth-graders. Leading them is Buchelt, who hit .358 last year and recently committed to Valporaiso. Early hit .378 last year and also posted a 1.25 ERA sharing pitching duties with Houda. Houda went 15-6 with a 1.34 ERA and is itching to get in the lineup as a hitter as well. With ex-Coal City ace Kirsten Verdun now at DePaul, Lisle is poised to win conference before another long playoff run. "They've tasted getting crushed and losing a close game in supersectionals. They want to get to state now," Pomatto said. "I'm cautiously optimistic at how far we can go."

Metea Valley

Coach: Kris Kalivas.

Last year: First year of varsity softball.

Top players: Sarah Knox, jr., OF; Emily Baker, jr., 3B/2B; Jenn Faassen, jr., C; Antoinette Senese, jr., OF; Kim Baker, jr., 3B/1B; Alyssa Coletto, so., 3B/2B/C; Lauren Carlson, so., OF/3B; Lori Obendorf, so., 1B; Anna Petersen, so., SS; Stephanie Bova, so., P; Alexa Caputo, so., P/OF; Jenna Hall, fr., P; Alisa Pera, fr., OF.

Scouting report: Kalivas, varsity coach at Waubonsie Valley for six seasons, leads the Mustangs into their maiden voyage on the varsity diamond. Good young talent isn't in short supply. Faassen started at catcher as a freshman at Waubonsie. Smart behind the plate, she can hit for power and into the gaps and was the leading hitter on Metea's JV team last year. Baker also played for Kalivas as a freshman at Waubonsie. Petersen at 6-foot-2 effortlessly covers a lot of ground at shortstop and also hit 8 homers for the Metea freshmen. Bova, Caputo and Hall will split time on the mound. Kalivas learned in basketball season that growing pains will come with a first-year varsity team. She's excited about this group, though. "Of all my years coaching softball, this is the most raw talent I've ever had," Kalivas said.

Montini

Coach: Richie Costante.

Last year: 21-16 overall, 12-4 (tied for first) in Suburban Christian Conference Blue; lost to Nazareth Academy 5-2 in Class 3A Montini regional final.

Top players: Tori Shipbaugh, jr., SS; Shaylee Lewis, so., 3B; Emily Barg, jr., OF/P; Tracy Bonacorrsi, sr., 1B/3B; Christina Barrett, fr., 2B/SS; Gabby Alanis, fr., P; Sara Ross, fr., C/1B.

Scouting report: First day outdoors, Shipbaugh boomed four balls that would have been out had Montini had its fence up. The Broncos will go as far as those bats take them. Shipbaugh hit .529 as a sophomore with 4 homers and 49 RBI. She will hit third, with Lewis leading off after hitting .337 with 16 steals last year. Montini returns eight starters, but the losses at pitcher, catcher and center field are significant. Ross is a member of Montini's basketball state championship team, and Costante says "reminds me of Frank Thomas when she swings" with speed to boot. Bonacorri moves from third to first and is the only senior starter. Four starters can steal bases, which fits right into Costante's aggressive style. "It's kind of a rebuilding year," Costante said, "but we feel we can compete in conference and regionals."

Naperville Central

Coach: Andy Nussbaum.

Last year: 21-16 overall, 8-6, fourth in DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Downers Grove North 1-0 in the Class 4A Benet regional final.

Top players: Alyssa Wunderlich, sr., P; Kelsey Gonzalez, jr., SS; Kristina Vizza, jr., P; Meghan Griffin, sr.; Nicole Kappelman, jr.; Katie Walker, so.; Juliet Tassi, so.; Jill Andreoni, jr.; Maddi Doane, fr., OF; Dana Dolehide, jr., IF; Keegan Hayes, fr., P/IF/OF.

Scouting report: As long as a Wunderlich sister has toed the rubber, runs have been in scarce supply for Redhawks opponents. This spring shouldn't be any different. Southern Illinois recruit Wunderlich, who went 16-10 with a 1.39 ERA and 236 strikeouts last year, returns to lead the Naperville Central staff. Vizza, committed to Loyola, is perhaps the best No. 2 pitcher in the area, as she put up a 1.86 ERA and struck out 79. Another SIU commit in Gonzalez hit .371 last year with 11 doubles and 7 triples leading off and is one of the smoothest-fielding shortstops around. Pesky slap hitter Kappelman moves from center to second base and Walker will move from third to first. Dolehide, who missed all of last spring with a knee injury, takes over at third. Nussbaum, 20 wins shy of career win No. 500, said to keep an eye on Doane. An addition to the coaching staff is former Naperville North and Illinois standout pitcher Jackelyn Diekemper. "If we score some runs," Nussbaum said, "we should win a lot of games."

Naperville North

Coach: Jerry Kedziora.

Last year: 20-14 overall, 8-6, fourth in DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Lockport 9-1 in Class 4A East Aurora regional final.

Top players: Sammy Marshall, sr., SS; Caitlyn Warren, jr., CF; Emily Dieckmann, sr., 1B/P; Kendall Vasser, sr., 3B; Bella Masini, sr., 2B; Amy Nelson, sr.; Tara Degl'Innocenti, jr., IF; Stephanie Tobin, jr., OF: Michelle Cavoto, so., OF.

Scouting report: Kedziora was just getting out of college the last time -- 1996 -- Naperville North won a DVC or regional title. These Huskies are poised to perhaps match both feats. Naperville North returns 14 players from a team who tied a school record for wins. The catalyst is lightning-fast Western Illinois recruit Marshall, who led DuPage County with a .586 batting average last year, scored 42 runs and stole 49 bases. Wisconsin-bound Warren hit over .400 as a sophomore. A big addition is Masini, who missed all of last season with a knee injury and helps solidify the infield. Vasser returns for her fourth varsity season, and DePauw recruit Dieckmann is back for her third. "These kids have a unique focus that I haven't seen before at Naperville North," Kedziora said. "They want to see their class on the board as conference and regional champions."

Neuqua Valley

Coach: Melissa Wilson.

Last year: 25-11 overall, 14-6 in Upstate Eight Conference; lost to Downers Grove South 4-0 in the Class 4A Bolingbrook sectional semifinal.

Top players: Leigh Nebendahl, sr., 1B; Kat Widup, jr., OF; Amanda Mener, sr., CF: Chelsea Mueller, sr., OF: Rebecca Lincoln, so., C; Jena Boudreau, sr., P/IF; Kelly O'Brien, sr., P/IF; Brooke Meyer, jr., SS.

Scouting report: Neuqua's new look this spring starts in the dugout. Wilson, a Lake Park graduate who pitched for the 2003 state runner-up, takes over as interim head coach after a year as an assistant. Changes abound on the field, too, as Daily Herald All-Area captain Jenna Marsalli has moved on to UIC and fellow four-year starter Colleen Hohman is now at Kansas. Don't expect a step back, though. DePaul recruit Amanda Mener returns atop the order after hitting .366 last year. Mener, Loyola commit Widup and Butler-bound Gronowski all can pressure teams with speed. "Our biggest advantage is the different options we have on offense," Wilson said. "We can keep teams on their toes." Toledo recruit Nebendahl hit .423 last year with 6 homers. St. Louis recruit Boudreau went 10-2 with a 1.57 ERA and stepped into some big games, so the pitching is in good hands. Meyer, also an outstanding hockey player, was the top hitter for the JV team last year.

St. Francis

Coach: Ralph Remus.

Last year: 22-11 overall, 12-4, first in Suburban Christian Conference Blue; lost to Burlington Central 5-3 in the Class 3A Hampshire regional semifinal.

Top players: Laura Behnke, sr., CF; Paige Davis, sr, SS; Bri Pasquale, jr., 3B; Taylor Ronchetto, sr., P; Blaine Carragher, jr., C; Emily Karpinski, sr., 1B.

Scouting report: Remus is back in the St. Francis dugout for a 13th season. With talent like this, it won't be an unlucky number. Remus has his deepest, most experienced team to date, with nine starters returning. Pasquale is one the area's best pure hitters, after a .564, 45-RBI sophomore season when she also scored 53 runs. "Probably the best hitter I have ever had," Remus said. Davis returns for her third year at shortstop and also brings a big bat. Behnke is a good left-handed center fielder, Karpinski a lefty with power and Carragher a solid line-drive hitter. Ronchetto, back for her fourth varsity season, knows how to move the ball around. No surprise that Remus said this group is a week ahead of where they normally are, and anxious to play. "They're a great bunch of kids to work with," said Remus, "all business."

Timothy Christian

Coach: Erin Hamstra.

Last year: 12-18 overall; lost to Lisle 12-2 in Class 2A Lisle sectional semifinal.

Top players: Kari LeGrand, sr., SS; Christina Lemon, sr., C/3B; Mackenzie Schaeffer, jr., 1B/P; Ashley Williams, jr., 2B/OF: Kacey Wieringa, sr., OF: Hope Zigterman, jr., C; Marisa Voss, so., P: Jessica Dirkse, jr., OF: Kaylee Huisman, jr.; Amber Scheidt, jr., OF: Makenzie Voss, jr., OF.

Scouting report: Hamstra, Timothy Christian's JV coach for five years, takes over the varsity Trojans. Janna Strodtman's graduation leaves big shoes to fill on the mound and at the plate, but the Trojans do return three seniors and a big group of juniors. Voss was moved up for portions of last season, and Hamstra said has good movement, speed and control, and also had a .448 on-base percentage in 11 varsity games last year. "An answer to our prayers," Hamstra said. Third baseman Lemon, who will also catch, hit .405 with 10 extra-base hits and 25 RBI, and Schaeffer banged 8 doubles. LeGrand, who hit a go-ahead homer in the Trojans' season-opening win, returns at shortstop and .320-hitting Zigterman behind the plate. "We have girls who love softball," Hamstra said, "and are working hard."

Waubonsie Valley

Coach: Aly Kelley.

Last year: 10-23 overall, 8-12 in the Upstate Eight Conference; lost to Downers Grove North 2-1 in the Class 4A Benet regional semifinal.

Top players: Jackie Kreiner, sr., 1B; Haylie Wensel, jr., 2B; Amanda Minihan, so., SS; Courtney Hicks, jr., OF; Jessica Sarch, jr., OF: Erin Hohman, so., 3B; Amy Jablonski, so., P: Alyssa Garcia, jr., P.

Scouting report: The new face leading Warriors softball should have a familiar ring to it. Kelley, a four-year varsity starter at Waubonsie from 2001-04 who coached the Warriors freshmen two years ago, takes over her alma mater. "It's nice to go back to where I grew up," said Kelley, who played collegiately at St. Xavier. Kreiner and Wensel are Waubonsie's top returners. Waubonsie's pitching is new to the varsity ranks, led by Jablonski, who played on the freshman team last year. Hohman is the younger sister of ex-Neuqua standout Colleen Hohman. Kelley isn't far enough removed from high school to forget when she won conference at Waubonsie. With a clean slate, she hopes to build the Warriors program back to the top. "I want to change the culture here and instill toughness in the girls," Kelley said. "This is the building year. They have to learn to put it all together. As long as I know they gave it their all, I'll be satisfied."

West Chicago

Coach: Kim Wallner.

Last year: 24-9 overall, 10-4, first in DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Elk Grove 4-3 in the Class 4A St. Charles North sectional final.

Top players: Mary Connolly, sr., P; Jessica Wood, jr., OF: Jen Konchar, sr., 1B; Rachel Johnson, jr., 3B/SS; Rachel Venchus, jr., C; Brittany Parisi, 2B; Jennifer Goldsmith, sr., OF: Morgan Dastych, so., U; Jessica Reed, sr., OF: Casey Christ, jr., OF: Tarah Rayos, jr., IF/P; Katie Wiest, jr., P/IF; Amanda Gosbeth, so., C/IF.

Scouting report: Veteran Wildcats basketball coach Wallner, the JV softball coach from 1985-2001, takes over a varsity team that isn't short on expectations. West Chicago will go as far as DePaul recruit and three-time All-Area pitcher Connolly can take them. She went 24-8 with a 1.22 ERA and area-best 238 strikeouts as a junior and also hit .398 with 12 doubles, 7 homers and 39 RBI. West Chicago has holes to fill at catcher and shorstop. Venchus, last year's backup, and Gosbeth will share backstop duties and Rayos fills the big shoes left by Izzy Bruce at shortstop. Wallner said Wood has looked great in practice and will lead off. West Chicago also returns Johnson at third base, Parisi at second and Konchar at first. "We've set some high goals, but we still have some things to figure out," Wallner said. "Until I see them under pressure you don't completely know what you have."

Wheaton Academy

Coach: Todd Starowitz.

Last year: 15-15 overall, 6-10 in Suburban Christian Conference Gold; lost to St. Viator 7-0 in the Class 3A Hampshire regional semifinal.

Top players: Paige Huizenga, sr., P; Kim Olson, jr., 1B/P; Bekah Heubner, jr., CF/3B; Marissa Gagliano, fr., SS; Emily Anderson, fr., C; Caitlin Koehler, jr., 2B; Jenna Clancy, sr., 3B; Jordyn Hoepner, jr., OF/C.

Scouting report: A growing program has progressed from a 4-win 2008 season to 12 in 2009 and 15 last year. With seven freshmen Wheaton Academy could stake a step back early. By May, though, Starowitz believes this could be his best team yet. Gagliano got ASA Nationals experience with the Wasco Diamonds and is a gifted defensive shortstop who makes players around her better. Anderson has never caught an organized softball game, so expect growing pains early, but is a dynamic talent with all the tools. Pencil in Heubner, who hit .309 last year, as the Warriors' center fielder. Huizenga, a .369 hitter as a junior, and Olson, .338 last year, return to anchor the pitching staff. Koehler had a .419 on-base percentage last year. An athletic freshman class will be tested with seven games against Class 4A schools. "We've come a long way from when we had just eight kids out," Starowitz said.

Wheaton North

Coach: Karen Calabrese.

Last year: 26-11 overall, 7-7, sixth in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to York 4-0 in the Class 4A Willowbrook regional final.

Top players: Paige Wilson, sr., SS: Rachel Holaway, sr., 2B; Kelsey Ullrich, sr., 1B; Kahla Nolan, sr., P; Paige Evangelista, sr., C; Katie Thornton, jr., P/OF: Annie Thomas, sr., 3B; Tiffany Gaimari, so., CF.

Scouting report: A talented core of six returning starters and eight seniors should put the Falcons in the thick of the DVC race. It starts with the middle of the lineup, one of the area's best. Georgia recruit Wilson hit .447 last year with 5 homers, 25 RBI, 30 runs scored and 15 steals. Expect even greater things, another year removed from an injury suffered in spring of 2009. "Preseason this year she looks like she's back to where she was before the injury," Calabrese said. Wilson is flanked in the order by Holaway, cleanup hitter Ullrich, Evangelista and Thornton. Wheaton North must replace its entire outfield, but tiny sophomore Gaimari can go get it in center and has a good arm. Calabrase said Wheaton North's fortunes could rise and fall on the mound, where Nolan and Thornton are "neck-and-neck."

Wheaton Warrenville South

Coach: Denise McCance.

Last year: 20-16 overall, 8-6, fourth in DuPage Valley Conference; lost to West Chicago 2-0 in the Class 4A West Chicago regional final.

Top players: Timmie Rappe, sr., OF: Hannah Granger, sr., 3B/P; Bekah Munday, sr., SS/P; Claire Linebarger, sr., 1B; Kristy Santora, jr., OF: Megan Zablock, jr., C; Sarah Skurla, sr., OF/2B; Jenny Langill, sr., 3B.

Scouting report: If the first two games are any indication, opposing pitchers are going to have big problems taming the Tiger bats. WW South scored 25 runs -- and that was without Santora, who hit .345 last year with 13 extra-base hits and a team-high 40 RBI. Santora just came back after a bout with mononucleosis. "Putting her in the lineup, it's going to be crazy," McCance said. "I'm just hoping they can stay hot." Minnesota recruit Granger hit .344 last year, Ohio-bound Rappe .330 and Munday, signed with NAIA school Central Methodist .320. Linebarger drove in 19 runs and returns at first base. Granger, 4-1 with a 4.45 ERA last year pitching behind graduated ace Julianne LaFleur, will share duties with Munday. The Tigers went 6-1 in the second round of the DVC last year and carried that hot streak into regionals with a big win over Bartlett. "We're coming in with a lot of confidence," McCance said.

Willowbrook.

Coach: Rachel Karos.

Last year: 13-23 overall, 5-7 in the West Suburban Gold; lost 13-1 to York in Class 4A Willowbrook regional quarterfinal.

Top players: Dana Campagna, sr., SS/3B; Labria Ford, sr., C; Lizzie Kalal, jr., OF; Megan Creighton, jr., OF: Olivia Domin, fr., OF: Darian Pelsor, so., P: Sarah Heaney, jr., P; Gabby Torres, jr., 1B.

Scouting report: Reaching the .500 mark is a goal Karos has set as she rebuilds the Warriors program. "It's been a long, long time," she said, "but I think we're capable." They'll do it without the graduated Interrante sisters, Michelle Willowbrook's top pitcher. Campagna hit close to .400 last year and the smart leader moves from second base to the left side of the infield. "I don't think you can ask for a better leader," Karos said. "She's a big reason my younger players will turn into better players." Kalal is a quiet leader, Ford tough and aggressive behind the plate. Karos said people will be impressed at how much Torres has improved. Domin is an athletic freshman and Karos thinks Pelsor is a name softball fans will get to know. "The only thing that worries me is we're young," second-year coach Karos said. "We could make some young mistakes, but we also could upset some teams."

York

Coach: Tom Babyar.

Last year: 19-18 overall, 5-7 in West Suburban Silver; lost to West Chicago 6-1 in the Class 4A St. Charles North sectional semifinal.

Top players: Tessa Kroll, jr., 1B/P; Sophia Kelly, sr., OF; Danielle Morency, jr., 3B: Ellen Barry, so., SS; Mary Carol Sullivan, sr., C; Rachel Rodriguez, sr., C/1B/LF; Gracie Sullivan, so, CF.

Scouting report: The Dukes finished strong last spring, stunning St. Charles North and Wheaton North to win their first regional since going to state in 2003. What will they do for an encore? For starters Kroll has a clean bill of health after pitching just 20 innings last year with a bone bruise in her arm. She also will bat in the middle of the Dukes' lineup after hitting over .400 last year. Kelly also hit over .400, and the converted infielder is adept at running down balls in the outfield. Key for York is getting runners on ahead of those two. Morency and Barry return on the left side of the infield, Mary Carol Sullivan behind the plate. Babyar, entering his 33rd season at York, is 17 wins shy of 600. "You still have to go through the St. Charles Norths, the Elk Groves and the Lake Parks," he said. "We are hoping we can put it all together and have a nice season."

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