Snow and cold temperatures have made this an unusual spring for softball players like Lake Park's Stephanie Starr.
Playing indoors at The Dome at The Ballpark in Rosemont was a different experience, too.
"It's nice to finally get a game in," Starr said, "but the turf is really crazy. You have to be careful charging the ball with the bounces in the outfield."
Clearly the conditions had no effect on the Lancers' bats.
No. 20 Lake Park pounded out 14 hits to run-rule Wheaton North 11-1 in five innings in the season opener for both teams Monday in Rosemont.
Starr had a 2-run triple in the first inning, and a two-run single in a 6-run fourth. Lake Park wasn't shut out in a game last year. Starr insists the lineup is even better now.
"We're stacked one through nine," Starr said. "I have confidence in every one of these girls."
Starr testified to the frustrations of a weather-delayed spring. Lake Park practiced indoors at 5:15 a.m. four days last week. Fortunately the Lancers are getting in two games this week in Rosemont, with a 3 p.m. Wednesday matchup versus Montini. The facility features two adjacent full-length fields. Several softball teams are taking advantage of it until the weather starts to cooperate.
"It's been really hard," Starr said. "There's been a lot of morning practices, but everybody's putting in the time. There are some dedicated players on this team. We want to get in as many cuts as we can."
Lake Park got it rolling early Monday, Shannon Fritsche lining a leadoff single. Starr tripled in Fritsche and Maria Zepeda, and Sam Cummings singled in Starr. A Cummings single scored Kelly O'Neill in the third, and in the fourth the Lancers sent 10 batters to the plate.
Cummings tripled in a run, Danielle Jecmen had an RBI single and Stephi Sturino added a pinch-hit RBI double. Lake Park coach Tom Mazzie is even blessed with capable hitters he can pull off the bench.
"We're pretty deep," Mazzie said. "I have some kids that I can pull off the bench and hit five through seven. I'm sitting there grinding at night trying to figure out a lineup out. Wherever I put them it's going to work out."
In a lineup of good hitters, Mazzie believes Starr is a star.
"I have touted Stephanie Starr because it's true," Mazzie said. "If there's a better kid in the area, maybe they're faster but they're not a better hitter and they don't have a better arm and they don't work harder. I promise you that."
Wheaton North was breaking in five new starters, and first-year coach Emily Johnson used three pitchers. Lake Park, where Johnson assisted the last two years, was a tough opener and Johnson knows she has a work in progress.
The Falcons, 8-25 a year ago, scored their only run in the third, Hannah Neilsen doubling and scoring on an error. Wheaton North catcher Madison Roskuszka did throw out one baserunner and picked off another.
"We're a brand new team. A lot of these girls have not even seen a varsity field," Johnson said. "We knew Lake Park could mash. I figured I was going to play everybody and see what happens."
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