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Scouting DuPage County softball

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By Joshua Welge

jwelge@dailyherald.com

Addison Trail

Coach: Mark Olson.

Last year: 5-25 overall; lost to Hinsdale Central 10-7 in the Class 4A Bartlett regional quarterfinal.

Top players: Crystal Marinelli, jr., IF; Sabrina Muell, sr., IF; Danielle Ciaglia, jr., IF; Cori Cooney, jr., C; Kelly Delawder, so., OF; Arie Renc, so., OF; Brianna Murry, jr., IF; Rachel Baumgartner, so., IF/OF; Alex DeSilvio, so., OF.

Scouting report: Olson is a familiar face in a new place. The former Willowbrook football coach, an assistant on Addison Trail's baseball team the last two years, takes over the Blazers softball program. "It's a nice change, heaven sent," said Olson, who teaches social studies and history at Addison Trail. His first group is a young one, with just three seniors. One of them, Muell, is back after not playing last year. Marinelli will play infield and pitch, and Cooney brings intangibles behind the plate. Most of these girls are multi-sport athletes; Muell starred for the Blazers' volleyball team, and seven basketball players are in the program. "The girls have just been fantastic," he said. "There will be growing pains but hopefully we continue to get better."

Benet

Coach: Jerry Schilf.

Last year: 32-5 overall, 14-2 (first) in the East Suburban Catholic Conference; lost to Neuqua Valley 1-0 in the Class 4A Plainfield South regional final.

Top players: Maeve McGuire, sr., CF; Marissa Panko, jr., SS; Julianne Rurka, jr., 3B; Stephanie Abello, so., C; Emily York, so., 1B/P; Molly Moran, jr., P; Ali Michalik, sr., 2B; Abbie Gerth, sr., OF.

Scouting report: What can Benet's bats possibly do for an encore? The area's most lethal lineup that scored nearly 10 runs per game returns six of its top seven hitters, aiming to erase the sting of last year's stunning regional loss. Georgia recruit McGuire, who hit .528 with 16 homers and 48 RBI, moves from leadoff to No. 3 and anchors a top six that hit a collective .435. Northwestern-bound Panko, who hit an area-best .587 and scored 50 runs, moves to leadoff and makes up the area's best left side of the infield with Providence recruit Rurka, who hit .555 with 52 RBI. Illinois recruit Abello, who hit .415 with 13 homers and 53 RBI, and York, .429 and 63 RBI, made huge impacts as freshmen. Benet took a hit when Moran went down with a dislocated knee; she is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Schilf watched conference rival Marist win a 4A title last year. Is this Benet's year? "The key is to not let our heads get too big," Schilf said. "We know we have a target on our backs."

Downers Grove North

Coach: Mark Magro.

Last year: 30-7 overall, 11-1 (first) in the West Suburban Silver; lost to West Chicago 2-1 in the Class 4A Geneva regional final.

Top players: Elaine Heflin, sr., P; Dale Ryndak, jr., P/1B; Carolyn Nojiri, sr., 2B; Brit Nagy, sr., 3B; Hannah Mrazek, so., C; Kelsey Gockman, jr., C.

Scouting report: The Trojans won a combined 62 games the last two years, but both ended with upsets in regional finals. Don't think they haven't forgot. "I told the girls to remember it," Magro said, "so we don't have that feeling again." Once again, Magro has the pitching for a deep run. UIC recruit Heflin, 16-5 with an area-best 0.36 ERA and 244 strikeouts, and Purdue-bound Ryndak, 12-2 with a 0.61 ERA and 129 strikeouts might just be the two best pitchers in the area. Magro has 10 kids back, including four-year starters Nagy at third base and Nojiri at second. Question is, will the Trojans hit enough? Magro has made no bones about how he will fill out his lineup. "I've told them that if you can hit, you'll be in there," Magro said. "All we have to do is score a couple runs to win."

Downers Grove South

Coach: Ron Havelka.

Last year: 24-11 overall, 10-2 (tied for first) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to West Chicago 6-3 in the Class 4A Geneva regional semifinal.

Top players: Jessica Andree, jr., SS; Caitlyn Daly, jr., OF; Kelly Schmitt, sr., P; Caroline Hedgcock, fr., P; Melissa Orton, jr., IF/OF; Olivia Parks, sr., C; Kaley Smith, jr., C/1B.

Scouting report: Havelka, entering his 21st year in the Mustangs dugout, will do so with a young group as eight seniors graduated, led by four-year starters Katy LaCivita and Danielle Trezzo. The inclement weather has slowed his evaluation process, too. "Everybody looks good in the fieldhouse," Havelka said with a chuckle. The Mustangs do boast a good little leadoff hitter in Andree, who hit .508 with 32 runs scored and slides over from second to shortstop. Tall junior Daly has potential in center field. Three freshmen could start at some point. The one to keep an eye on the most is lefty pitcher Hedgcock. She will share time on the mound with Schmitt, who beat eventual 4A champ Marist last year. "We're going to have some growing pains," Havelka said, "but I think we'll be OK."

Fenton

Coach: Dave Mello.

Last year: 18-20 overall, 4-8 (fifth) in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost to Ridgewood 9-8 in the Class 3A Fenton sectional semifinal.

Top players: Hannah Wassmann, jr., SS; Nicole Susmarski, jr., 3B; Kelly Kielbasa, sr., 1B; Dana Fritz, so., P; Cindy Paul, jr., OF; Rachel Leschewski, jr., OF/3B; Diana Pikul, fr., OF; Courtney Susmarski, fr., OF; Jocelyn Souvannasy, fr., P; Ellie Gonzales, fr., 2B.

Scouting report: It's a fresh start at Fenton. Graduated are seven seniors, among them catcher Kelly Welch. In steps nine new varsity players, six of them freshmen. Mello expects the Bison's biggest improvement to be on the mound, where Fritz threw nearly 100 innings last year and is showing a good five-pitch repertoire. Wassmann hit .375 and stole an area-best 45 bases; she has sights set on putting her name on the IHSA's leaderboard Susmarski hit .355 with 54 RBI and 41 runs scored and Kielbasa .353 with 36 RBI. Paul, who moved from Texas, is a nice addition in the outfield. Three of the freshmen will start and the fourth will be the Bison's No. 2 pitcher. But Mello, who played 13 freshmen and sophomores three years ago, insists that Fenton isn't in full rebuild mode. "Despite the youth I'm feeling very good," he said.

Glenbard East

Coach: Valerie Pinzker.

Last year: 10-25 overall, 2-12 in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Glenbard North 5-0 in the Class 4A St. Charles North regional semifinal.

Top players: Brittany Plimmer, sr., C; Kara Tadda, sr., P; Megan Cotterill, sr., 2B; Alyssa Haught, sr., OF; Angela Greco., sr., 1B; Dana Camp, jr., SS; Alyssa Byrne, sr., 3B; Kailey Lyons, fr., OF; Grace Miller, jr., P; Kelli Tyler, so., DP/3B; Carissa Slobodecki, jr., OF.

Scouting report: If you're starting a softball team, a seasoned battery is a good way to go. Glenbard East has it with fourth-year starters Tadda and Plimmer at pitcher and catcher, respectively. "Brittany's kept us in so many games picking off people," Pinzker said." The Rams return six seniors, and Camp is a third-year starter at shortstop. Cutting down on errors and putting up smarter at-bats will be key to Glenbard East's improvement. While other DVC softball programs are struggling with numbers, Pinzker had 30 freshmen try out and added a freshman B team. Lyons, a lefty slapper, was added to the varsity. "It will be the little things that make the difference for us," Pinzker said.

Glenbard North

Coach: Josh Sanew.

Last year: 34-3 overall, 12-2 (first) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Bartlett 1-0 in the Class 4A Lake Park sectional final.

Top players: Lindsey Cherry, sr., P; Sydney Benz, jr., SS; Alex Caliva, jr., 2B; Stephanie Campos, so., 3B; Heather Sperlazzo, jr., 1B; Ashley Stiver, sr., OF/C; Sarah Petzold, so., OF; Cece Dopart, jr., P/OF.

Scouting report: Lose the area's most valuable player, don't miss a beat? Don't be surprised if that happens in Carol Stream. All-Area Captain Lilly Fecho is at Purdue now, but the Panthers return one of the area's best infields intact. Strong-armed Louisville recruit Benz, who hit .400 as a freshman, could be in for a bounce-back year with the bat. She is flanked by Bradley-bound Campos, who hit .344 as a freshman, and Illinois State recruit Caliva, who hit .356. In Fecho's shadow Cherry went 7-0 with a 0.91 ERA in 54 innings, so the drop-off there shouldn't be severe. A great defensive team still smarting from a bitter loss to Bartlett will need to collectively make up for Fecho's lost leadership and two-way talent. "They've come here ready to work," Sanew said. "They know what happened. We want to get past that sectional."

Glenbard South

Coach: Julie Fonda.

Last year: 37-4 overall, 12-0 (first) in the Metro Suburban Conference; Beat Marengo 2-1 in the Class 3A championship game.

Top players: Jane Trzaska, sr., P/C; Stephanie Chitkowski, sr., P; Hannah Taylor, sr., 3B/1B; Danielle Scarpiniti, jr., 1B; Ashley Cohen, fr., SS/2B; Payton Carli, fr., 2B/OF; Tarah Valdez, jr., SS/C.

Scouting report: Fonda's defending state champs are undergoing a face lift. Graduated are seven starters, making this Raiders team as unknown a quantity as there's been in a few years. What is a sure thing is Glenbard South's battery. Chitkowski, 17-2 with a 0.93 ERA and 142 strikeouts, was the junior half of a sister pitching act last year, and with Danielle gone takes over the No. 1 spot. Trzaska will pitch more when she's not catching, but most important she brings back a .352 average with 51 RBI. Taylor, who had a 2-run single in the 3A final, and Valdez also both saw extensive time. Freshmen Cohen and Carli are among the next generation of Raiders. "There's a lot of talent, it's just going to take some time," Fonda said. "We know a lot of people will count us out."

Glenbard West

Coach: Mary McGrane.

Last year: 22-14 overall, 11-1 (tied for first) in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Bartlett 2-0 in the Class 4A Bartlett regional final.

Top players: Jacklyn Tyburk, sr., 3B/1B; Taylor Langtry, jr., P/1B; Stacy Borneman, jr., 2B; Rachel Terwilliger, so., SS; Maggie Stalker, sr., 2B; Julia Waggoner, sr., CF.; Natalie Noland, sr., OF; Emi Pavia, sr., C.

Scouting report: The Hilltoppers finished fast last spring, winning a share of their first Silver title since 2005. Can it carry over? McGrane has good reason to believe so. Glenbard West returns 11 girls, nine of them seniors. Bucknell-bound Tyburk, who will play third base or first, hit .442 with 15 doubles and 36 RBI and is one of the area's toughest outs. Langtry, 17-7 with a 1.52 ERA and 143 strikeouts, enters her third season as a varsity starter. Aggressive hitter Stalker is back at second base, Waggoner in center field. Terwilliger is a big, strong sophomore who is penciled in at shortstop. McGrane is looking for her girls to bring the requisite intensity and confidence from Day 1. "I expect us to start off where we ended last season," she said.

Hinsdale Central

Coach: Lee Maciejewski.

Last year: 15-18 overall, 2-10 (sixth) in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Bartlett 11-1 in the Class 4A Bartlett regional semifinal.

Top players: Alexa Heydenberk, sr., OF/1B; Mary Somerfield, sr., OF/1B; Lauren Deleen, jr., 3B; Annemarie Tracey, so., P/SS; Faith Koffron, so., C; Emma Day, so., OF; Courtney Berlin, fr., P; Alysa Doneske, fr., OF/IF; Lauren Excell, fr., IF; Haley O'Connell, fr., OF; Emily Park, fr., IF.

Scouting report: Momentum is trending in the right direction for the Red Devils, who jumped from five wins two years ago to 15 last spring. More talent is coming through the pipeline in the next few freshman classes. This will be a young group, with five freshmen and only two seniors. Those two are good ones, but key is keeping them healthy. Heydenberk broke her ankle last spring and Somerfield broke her wrist sophomore year. Tracey, an outfielder by trade, will pitch and play shortstop. Three or four freshmen could start, Berlin being one of them, but the pitcher is recovering from a broken wrist. "Our future is looking up," Maciejewski said. "We knew these kids were coming and they're finally here."

Hinsdale South

Coach: Kelly Van Hout

Last year: 23-12 overall, 7-3 (second) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to York 5-4 in the Class 4A Hinsdale South regional final.

Top players: Lauren Cairo, sr., C/3B; Sabrina Kuchta, jr., 3B/OF/SS; Emily Milhalkanin, sr., U; Jessica Buckridge, sr., P.

Scouting report: There is a meshing of the old and new in Darien this spring. The holdovers are a returning core of Cairo, Kuchta, Milhalkanin and Buckridge. Cairo, who is expected to get the majority of the time at catcher but could also play outfield, hit .422 with 4 homers and 23 RBI. Kuchta was a big addition in her first year at Hinsdale South, hitting .357 with 40 RBI. Milhalkanin hit .333 and Buckridge won 13 games. Van Hout hopes to fill in the spots around them, and must replace her entire outfield. A smattering of juniors and four freshmen are the youth here. "I tell them on a daily basis it doesn't matter what year you are if you can play the game," Van Hout said.

IC Catholic Prep

Coach: Frank Reaber.

Last year: 27-8 overall, 15-1 (first) in the Suburban Christian Conference Gold; lost to Mt. Assisi 6-5 in the Class 2A Timothy Christian regional final.

Top players: Maria Kieliszewski, sr., C/IF; Jessica Conenna, so., P/1B; Gabby Curran, so, IF/OF; Lindsey Montoya, so., OF; Kathryn Fajardo, jr., OF;

Scouting report: Youth will be served in Elmhurst this spring. The Knights, who set a program win record last year while winning their third straight SCC Gold title, could start four freshmen and three sophomores as they move up to the SCC Blue. Katelyn Conenna's graduation leaves a void in the lineup, but IC's pitching should be strong with Jessica Conenna, 20-6 with a 1.41 ERA and 184 strikes, and freshman Catherine Klostermann. Kieliszewski, .437 with 32 RBI, is IC's most experienced bat and will move to third base. Curran, .386 with 26 RBI as a freshman, returns at second base and will lead off with Montoya, .326 with 13 RBI, in center. "I think our pitching is going to keep us in a lot of games," Reaber said.

Lake Park

Coach: Tom Mazzie.

Last year: 20-16 overall, 13-6 (third) in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to York 7-5 in the Class 4A Hinsdale South regional semifinal.

Top players: Stephanie Starr, sr., RF; Kelly O'Neill, sr., C/LF; Shannon Fritsche, sr., 3B; Danielle Jecmen, sr., P; Maria Zepeda, so., SS/CF; Dena Guthrie, jr., LF/1B; Sam Cummings, sr., 1B; Julie Baumgart, so., P.

Scouting report: The Lancers were not shut out once last year, even facing some 15 pitchers who are or will be playing college ball. As crazy as it sounds, Mazzie thinks the bats could be even better. Four seniors return who hit over .300, led by Starr, who hit .427 with 39 RBI. "She's like a robot in the batting box," Mazzie said. "I've never someone with that compact a swing." O'Neill, .311 with 33 RBI and Fritsche, .308 with 25 RBI, could be in for even bigger years. Mazzie calls Zepeda a five-tool future Division I player, a natural center fielder who will play shortstop. Injury hampered Jecmen's junior year, but she is back to pair with Baumgart on the mound. "By committee we should be a better team," Mazzie said.

Lisle

Coach: Jen Pomatto.

Last year: 30-4 overall, 13-3 (first) in the Interstate Eight Conference North; lost to Sherrard 8-2 in the Class 2A DeKalb supersectional.

Top players: Summer Stitt, jr., SS/P; Abby Tarasewicz, sr., OF; Kelly Urban, sr., OF/SS: Isabella Daly, fr., IF; Kate Twaddle, so., IF/OF;

Scouting report: Lisle, sectional champs the last four years with one state appearance, is guarding against a letdown this spring. Graduated are seven seniors, led by All-Area players Mackenzie Buchelt and Melanie Early. A few components do remain, though. Stitt hit .347 and scored 33 runs and this spring will pitch in addition to being the lineup's sparkplug. Tarasewicz, a slapper who hit .355 and Urban, who hit .323 are back and Twaddle got a taste of varsity action as a freshman. Daly could be a freshman to watch. Pomatto acknowledges the long road ahead, but this isn't a complete restart. "It will look different," she said, "but we have some people used to playing at the high school level in some high-intensity games."

Metea Valley

Coach: Kris Kalivas.

Last year: 17-17 overall, 8-11 (sixth) in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Waubonsie Valley 6-0 in the Class 4A Metea Valley regional semifinal.

Top players: Alyssa Coletto, sr., C/3B; Lori Obendorf, sr., 1B/SS; Stephanie Bova, sr., P; Alexa Caputo, sr., SS/P/2B; Jenna Hall, jr., P; Alise Perna, jr., OF; Kara Leckinger, fr., C/1B.

Scouting report: The Mustangs took a big hit when Northwestern-bound shortstop Anna Petersen tore an ACL in December playing basketball. Without her there is much less power, greater emphasis on speed and getting on base. Caputo will now be Metea's starting shortstop, spelled by Obendorf, giving Hall and Bova a bigger pitching workload. Leadoff hitter Perna, who hit .377 with 29 runs, can bunt or hit for power, and covers a ton of ground in center. Coletto, who hit .327 with 18 RBI, caught last year but will move to third base and brings a hard-nosed attitude and vocal leadership. Metea will turn to freshman Leckinger to catch. With five girls back Kalivas is confident Metea can remain competitive minus its best player. "For my seniors it's their year to prove where they want to go," she said.

Montini

Coach: Richie Costante.

Last year: 22-15 overall, 12-4 (second) in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue; lost to St. Francis 10-6 in the Class 3A Montini regional final.

Top players: Shaylee Lewis, sr., 3B; Sara Ross, jr., 1B; Lauren Trojnar, so., P; Cristina Barrett, jr., SS; Morganne Evans, so., RF/3B; Amy Bukovsky, fr., 2B; Alyssa Sclafani, fr., C.

Scouting report: Costante thinks could be Montini's best softball team. Eight returners, five talented freshmen and great gloves all around support his high hopes. Trojnar is a strike-thrower on the mound and hit .398 as a freshman with a program-record 36 steals. Fourth-year starter Lewis hit .385 her first three years with 69 steals and Ross, a .364 career hitter has the ability to take people deep or drop a bunt down. Barrett, moving to shortstop, could be in for a big year provided she stays healthy. Three freshmen should start, with Bukovsky at second base and Sclafani at catcher. Costante raves about Sclafani's throwing arm and power bat. Of his 14 girls, 13 played as freshmen. "Our experience is going to lead us," Costante said. "We're young, but not in key spots."

Naperville Central

Coach: Andy Nussbaum.

Last year: 26-10 overall, 11-3 (second) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Plainfield East 5-4 in the Class 4A Romeoville regional final.

Top players: Keegan Hayes, jr., P; Juliet Tassi, sr., C; Maddi Doane, jr., CF; Laura Dierking, sr., OF; Kaitlyn Skarecky, jr., 1B/C; Courtney Giebel, jr., 3B; Lindsey Gonzalez, fr., 2B; Abbey Anaya, sr., OF; Julie Kestas, so., P.

Scouting report: The Redhawks come in with a slight chip on their shoulder after how last spring ended. Naperville Central went 22-2 in one stretch, then lost at least a share of the DVC title on the last day and were upset in regionals. "We have an almost inherent sense of urgency from last year," Nussbaum said. This veteran group is built to get big things done. It starts with the battery of Northern Illinois recruit Hayes, 13-6 last year with a 1.65 ERA and 126 strikeouts, and fourth-year starting catcher Tassi. Syracuse-bound Doane, who hit .398 with 30 runs, and Dierking, .324 with 28 RBI, are two strong outfielders. Skarecky, .385 with a team-best 34 RBI last year, is another experienced hitter. Lindsey Gonzalez, kid sister of graduated All-Area shortstop Kelsey, will play second base and could lead off. "I'm really excited about how good we can be," Nussbaum said.

Naperville North

Coach: Jerry Kedziora.

Last year: 24-13 overall, 9-5 (fourth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Plainfield Central 3-1 in the Class 4A East Aurora sectional final.

Top players: Kailee Budicin, jr., C; Alexis Solak, so., SS; Kelsey Ladone, sr., 3B; Samantha Flerlage, sr., P; Hannah Robert, sr., 2B; Michelle Cavoto, sr., OF; Rachel Martin, so., 1B; Rachel Aiardo, so., OF; Lexi Ricketts, sr., OF; Casey Rechenmacher, jr., P/IF; Amanda Mackey, so., 3B.

Scouting report: The Huskies set a high standard for themselves last spring, setting a program win record and reaching the school's first sectional final. The pieces are in place for a strong encore with the entire infield returning intact. Budicin broke onto the scene with a 5-RBI game against Benet and ended up hitting .333 with 4 homers, 14 doubles and a team-best 38 RBI. Solak hit .328 with 11 doubles, 41 runs scored and 23 RBI and should move up to the leadoff spot. Ladone, Robert and Pittsburgh recruit Ricketts make this a lineup that will put up runs. The question is who replaces workhorse pitcher Kathleen Hahne. Flerlage, 1-2 with a 2.06 ERA, is first up. "These kids know how to win now," Kedziora said. "I don't think we'll be intimidated by too many teams."

Neuqua Valley

Coach: Melissa Wilson.

Last year: 22-16 overall, 12-7 (third) in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Plainfield Central 2-1 in the Class 4A East Aurora sectional semifinal.

Top players: Jamie O'Brien, jr., P/IF; Rebecca Lincoln, sr., C; Kelsey Dominguez, sr., OF/C; Sydney Foran, sr., Of/IF; Mac Spittal, sr., P; Anna Cizek, sr., OF/IF; Alyssa Domico, sr., IF; Alyssa Mazurek, sr., IF; Jenny Budds, so., OF.

Scouting report: Wilson could use O'Brien in several spots this year -- on the mound, where she beat Benet 1-0 in a regional last year, at third base or at her natural shortstop position. She'll make an impact anywhere. The dynamic, speedy Loyola recruit hit .442 with 30 RBI and is a cat-quick fielder on the mound. She leads a group of nine returners. Neuqua is five-deep at pitcher, O'Brien and Spittal leading a group that will throw to fourth-year starting catcher Lincoln. Dominguez, who hit .383 with 29 RBI, Domico, .324 with 18 RBI and Mazurek, .288 with 13 RBI, keys a lineup less lefty-heavy and not quite as fast as recent years. Wilson was a high school pitcher, but she plans to pencil in a lineup with an eye to offense. "Last year a lot of times we learned the hard way," Wilson said. "We want to put in people that will score us runs."

St. Francis

Coach: Ralph Remus.

Last year: 29-4 overall, 13-1 (first) in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue; lost to Glenbard South 7-1 in the Class 3A Glenbard South sectional final.

Top players: Aly Germanos, sr., 2B; Alyssa Fernandes, sr., SS; Maggie Remus, jr., P; Ali Dittrich, so., 1B; Carly Pasquale, so., RF; Lauren Fzeszutko, sr., CF; Fiona Summers, fr., C.

Scouting report: Any softball team covets strength up the middle -- and St. Francis is as set there as anybody. The combo of Fernandes, who hit .541 with 9 homers, and Germanos, who hit .464, will make the lineup go. They also key what should be a strong group with the glove. Remus, 25-2 in her first varsity season, returns on the mound, and Pasquale hit .414 as a freshman. Summers is a freshman St. Francis will need to grow with, but she looks like a good one. The Spartans are counting the hours to a trip to Orlando, where they will get in four games starting Monday. "The kids are excited out of their minds," Remus said. "Defense is strong, pitching is strong, offense we have enough bats to make contact that we should see improvement over the course of the season."

Timothy Christian

Coach: Aaron Moore.

Last year: 13-21 overall, 2-10 in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost to Mt. Assisi 5-0 in the Class 2A Timothy Christian regional semifinal.

Top players: Marisa Voss, sr., P; Brittany Scheidt, sr., SS; Charity Floyde, sr., OF; Kaylee Biscan, fr., 3B, OF.

Scouting report: New coach Moore is no stranger to softball. The general manager of the Chicago Bandits, the Rockton resident has coached the 18U Stateline Fury and also coached high school at Durand. His first Trojans team is young and will lean heavily on pitchers Voss and Biscan. Voss struck out 198 batters last year and also hit .432 with 26 RBI. Scheidt hit .271 as a junior and Floyde .313 with 16 runs and 10 steals. The Trojans program has 14 total kids out, six of them freshmen with zero juniors. Moore plans to play an aggressive game on the bases and work to become fundamentally sound in the field. "Our conference is pretty tough," Moore said. "We're focusing on competing and getting better."

Waubonsie Valley

Coach: Aly Kelley.

Last year: 26-9 overall, 15-3 (tied for first) in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Plainfield Central 7-0 in the Class 4A Metea Valley regional final.

Top players: Amanda Minahan, sr., SS; Shannon Hohman, so., P; Mel Koulos, jr., OF; Amanda Lack, jr., C; Erin Hohman, sr., 3B; Jordan Kurth, so., P/1B/OF; Layne Thresh, so., IF; Christina Pembrook, so., OF/P.

Scouting report: The Warriors come off a spring where they set a program win record and won their first conference title since 2001. The core returns, with an eye toward a deeper playoff run. It starts with strong-armed shortstop Minahan, committed to South Alabama, who hit .403 with 9 homers, 51 RBI and 30 runs scored. Hohman went 21-6 with a 1.53 ERA and 144 strikeouts her freshman year and is one of the area's best arms. Kelley noted that she throws harder than last year and looks to have better command. Lack, .385 with 39 RBI, and Koulos, .361 with 20 runs scored, return at catcher and in the outfield. Health will be critical. Waubonsie's roster is only 12 deep. "Our older kids need to lead the younger kids, show them the way," Kelley said.

West Chicago

Coach: Kim Wallner.

Last year: 24-13 overall, 10-4 (third place); lost to Bartlett 4-0 in the Class 4A Lake Park sectional semifinal.

Top players: Amanda Gosbeth, sr., C/IF; Morgan Dastych, sr., 2B; Arielle McComb, sr., OF; Tatiana Rich, so., C/IF; Bri Hofman, sr., OF/IF; Amy Goldsmith, so., P; Jenna Foreman, so., P/CF; Ellie Braun, so., C/3B; Bryer Serrato, sr., OF.

Scouting report: As they embark on a swan song in the DVC, the Wildcats are ironing out a few growing pains. Gone from a 24-win team are both pitchers and three-fourths of an infield. What West Chicago does possess is speed, with potentially four slappers among five lefties in its lineup. The Wildcats will lean on the experience of Gosbeth and Dastych. Gosbeth, who will catch more to ease in young pitchers, hit .371 with 24 RBI and 29 runs and Dastych .280 with 26 RBI and 30 runs. Goldsmith threw about 20 innings last year and will pair with Foreman in a righty-lefty pitching combo. "We have some talent, but we're young," Wallner said. "We'll be a work in progress."

Wheaton Academy

Coach: Paul Gagliano.

Last year: 10-19 overall, 5-11 (third) in the Suburban Christian Conference Gold; lost to Lisle 3-1 in the Class 2A regional final.

Top players: Marissa Gagliano, jr., SS; Sarah McClain, jr., CF; Jess Bosse, so., C.

Scouting report: The Warriors will be playing on a remodeled field this spring -- replete with new dugouts, new infield and new backstop. Gagliano has eyes on building a solid foundation on the field, too. Wheaton Academy's third coach in as many seasons has five years of travel coaching experience with the Wasco Diamonds. His first high school team is young but experienced. Seven starters return but there is only one senior. Gagliano's daughter Marissa, an All-Area shortstop committed to Radford, hit .535 with 39 steals and 7 doubles as a sophomore but is Wheaton Academy's only travel player. McClain, who hit .300 with 4 doubles and 12 RBI, and Boss, .250 with 14 RBI and 16 steals, are also back. "We're trying to build a program here," said Gagliano, who anticipates a very good freshman class next year. "Our expectations are to continue to develop and give them a solid base."

Wheaton North

Coach: Emily Johnson.

Last year: 8-25 overall, 4-10 in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Glenbard East 10-0 in the Class 4A St. Charles North regional quarterfinal.

Top players: Tiffany Gaimari, sr., CF; Kelly Thornton, so., SS/C; Kat Meyer, jr., 3B; Paige Grittner, so., 1B; Hannah Neilsen, sr., LF; Amanda Mordacq, jr., P.

Scouting report: Johnson is back home. The 1995 Wheaton Warrenville South graduate, head coach at West Chicago for two years and assistant at Lake Park the last two, returns to Wheaton to lead a Falcons program on the rebuild. "I think this is where I'm supposed to be," said Johnson, also a pitching instructor who brings in an entirely new coaching staff. Johnson appears to have some speed here. Gaimari is one of five lefties, and Johnson plans to push the envelope provided her kids get on base. Smart, aggressive Thornton pairs with Meyer in a strong left side of the infield. "They're a great group of girls," Johnson said. "They're willing to do whatever I ask them to do."

Wheaton Warrenville South

Coach: Jeffrey Pawlak.

Last year: 17-18 overall, 7-7 in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Glenbard West 1-0 in the Class 4A Bartlett regional semifinal.

Top players: Sammy Granger, sr., P; Hannah Keating, sr., C; Kimmy Hayes, sr., 1B/OF; Jenny Harbakus, jr., SS; Joanna Drew, sr., 3B; Cameron Briggs, sr., OF; Maggie Graham, jr., OF; Hannah Croci, jr., OF; Maddie Briggs, so., P; Catie Hohnstein, so., 2B/SS/OF; Erika Mrzlak, sr., 2B.

Scouting report: Pawlak's Tigers could be poised for a jump in wins, and it's easy to see why. WW South went 2-8 in one-run games last year; a senior-laden team returns a year older and a year wiser. With that in mind, Pawlak is stressing the "little things" to turn the corner in close games -- getting bunts down, moving runners and mental preparation. Granger won 12 games while hitting .333, and is one of the more experienced pitchers in the DVC. Briggs hit .347 with 16 RBI, Keating .311. Graham is a junior to watch. Pawlak thinks this team could have won 22-23 games last year and expects to contend in the DVC this spring. "Hopefully our girls believe that it's theirs for the taking," Pawlak said. "We went through growing pains and we're the better for it."

Willowbrook

Coach: Rachel Karos.

Last year: 20-16 overall, 7-5 (fourth) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to Hinsdale South 7-1 in the Class 4A Hinsdale South regional semifinal.

Top players: Darian Pelsor, sr., P; Sam Schmidt, so., SS; Erin Sporer, so., C; Alyssa Ressinger, so., 1B; Olivia Domin, jr., CF; Kelly Campagna, sr., OF; Lauren Sauer, sr., 3B;

Scouting report: Willowbrook experienced a breakout season on the girls basketball court this winter. All signs point toward a similar softball renaissance. The Warriors return experience on the mound and a dynamite sophomore nucleus. "If there was a year for us to do things, this should be that year," said fourth-year coach Karos. Pelsor is the seasoned centerpiece, the Warriors' No. 1 pitcher who also hit .500 with 10 doubles and 4 triples. From there Karos builds around rangy shortstop Schmidt, .436 with 35 RBI as a freshman, backstop Sporer, who hit .363 and the third sophomore Ressinger, .465. With seven returners who Karos notes have put in the time, Willowbrook is poised to contend in the Gold and for a regional. "It's finally an acceptable goal for us," she said.

York

Coach: Drew McGuire.

Last year: 18-19 overall, 8-4 in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Glenbard North 5-1 in the Class 4A Lake Park sectional semifinal.

Top players: Angela Scalzitti, jr., OF; Gracie Sullivan, sr., OF; Sarah Milkowski, so., C/3B; Isabella Jaeger, so., 1B; Elena Schwarz, sr., P; Brooke Bandy, so., P.

Scouting report: The Dukes hope to build on last year's playoff run, while rebuilding. York graduated seven seniors, a group led by All-Area pitcher Tessa Kroll. This group is young, with just two seniors, and breaking in an entirely new infield. DePaul recruit Scalzitti, who hit .308 with 18 stolen bases and Sullivan, who hit .276 with 18 RBI will patrol the outfield. Schwarz and sophomore Bandy will fill Kroll's big shoes on the mound. Milkowski, coming off a big basketball season, will catch and play third. Jaeger, clocked from home to first in 2.89 seconds, boasts great speed and a power bat. McGuire's second group is young, but smart with great speed he hopes to take advantage of. "The question marks will answer themselves once the season gets going," McGuire said.

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