Most games, Maeve McGuire is used to seeing her parents decked out in Benet black, red and white.
Today could be an exception to that rule.
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McGuire's No. 2 Redwings host No. 12 Downers Grove North this afternoon. It is just another nonconference game for Benet, but not in the McGuire household. Maeve's younger sister Rowan is a sophomore outfielder for the Trojans.
"I think my parents are dreading this because one of us has to lose," Maeve said. "I think they're going to be wearing neutral colors."
This will be Maeve and Rowan's first time playing against each other. Maeve, a junior, and Rowan played travel ball together for the Downers Grove Rebels and Chi-Town Express up until 14U. The two girls go to hitting lessons together every Thursday, and work out in tandem at the cages.
Hitting definitely runs in the genes.
Maeve, committed to Georgia, is considered by many to be the best hitter in DuPage County, currently batting .629 with 9 home runs, 19 doubles and 33 runs batted in. Rowan, another sweet-swinging lefty drawing Division I interest, is hitting .466 with 8 doubles and 15 RBI.
"I'm excited about playing against her," Maeve said. "I think it will be fun."
McGuire versus McGuire is somewhat of a subplot to what really makes this an interesting game.
Benet (19-2) brings in the area's best lineup. The Redwings are hitting .434 as a team, have already hit 29 homers and are scoring over 11 runs per game. Downers Grove North (16-2) counters with maybe the best pitching in the area. UIC-bound junior Elaine Heflin, who will start today's game, is 9-2 with a 0.51 ERA and has struck out 131 in 69 innings.
Irresistible force, meet immovable object.
"It will be a really good test for us," Maeve McGuire said, "to see if we can adapt and hit against the best."
Hohman leading way for Warriors:
It isn't every day that a freshman emerges as a team leader, but Shannon Hohman sure seems to be one for Waubonsie Valley.
The 14-4 Warriors have already surpassed last year's win total. Look no further than Hohman as reason why.
Waubonsie's freshman ace pitcher is 11-2 with a 1.24 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 84 innings. Hohman arrived at Waubonsie highly touted, and hasn't disappointed.
"She's kind of the leader of the team, she pushes everybody," Waubonsie coach Alyson Kelley said. "Sometimes that's hard to find."
Hohman is breaking in a new changeup, and after shying away from her curveball for a time is now incorporating it more. Just as importantly, Kelley said she is honing her pitching sequences and recognizing better what pitches are being called strikes on a given day.
"We're working in and out, up and down, changing eye levels," Kelley said. "She doesn't let hitters get too comfortable in the box."
She is also impacting games with her bat.
Against Plainfield South on Friday, Hohman was asked to drop down a sacrifice bunt in a tie game against her wishes. Next time up, Kelley let Hohman swing away in a similar situation. Hohman promptly drilled a game-winning triple against the wind that Kelley said on normal days would have been easily out.
"If she wants to do something, she'll do it," Kelley said. "She's really mature for her age, she handles criticism well and is very coachable."
Future looking bright in Willowbrook:
Hohman is far from the only freshman making a splashy debut this spring.
Willowbrook has three freshmen starting for an 8-10 team with intentions of cracking the .500 barrier. Shortstop Sam Schmidt hit a walk-off 3-run homer on Saturday to beat Hinsdale Central, and went deep again Monday in a 9-4 win over Morton.
"You could tell it was gone," Willowbrook coach Rachel Karos said of the Saturday homer. "That was nice."
Schmidt was hitting .433 with 26 RBI going into Monday's game. Fellow freshman Alyssa Ressinger stepped in at first base when Gabby Torres went down with an ankle injury and is hitting .518 with 2 homers and 10 RBI in nine games. A third freshman, starting catcher Erin Sporer, is hitting .367.
"When you have three freshmen starting and are still winning games, that's definitely a good thing," Karos said. "It wasn't my intention to play them all but these girls are making it hard to keep them off the field."
Karos characterized Schmidt and Ressinger as laid back, but hard workers who can look effortless at times on the field.
"You can tell the softball that the girls have in them, the knowledge of the game," Karos said. "They are freshmen that have no fear."
Gagliano commits to Radford:
When the discussion of the area's better shortstops comes up, don't forget about Marissa Gagliano.
Wheaton Academy's sophomore dynamo made a verbal commitment to Division I Radford this past week. Gagliano, who plays for the Wasco Diamonds travel program, was third team all-state by the Illinois Coaches Association as a freshman after hitting .474 with 8 doubles and 25 stolen bases. This spring she is at .579 with 5 doubles, 16 RBI and 12 steals.
"She's just a great athlete -- she can do it all," said Bill Morrow, Gagliano's coach with the Diamonds. "Lefty, righty, fast, power and her defensive skills are amazing."
Gagliano transitioned from a righty to a lefty because of her speed and slapping ability, enhancing her ability to get on base.
"But she is one of the few that I have ever seen still go righty and take it out of the park," Morrow said. "Athletically, the kid is off the charts."