Lake Park boarded its bus for the ride back to Roselle, fresh off pounding out 37 hits in a doubleheader sweep at Conant Saturday.
Was a restaurant for a postgame meal the destination?
Try the weight room for more lifting.
A secret to the success behind one of the area's best lineups is the exhaustive strength work Tom Mazzie's Lancers do.
Three to four times a week, starting in October, Lake Park's kids hit the weight room at 5:15 a.m. That does not stop once the season starts. Mazzie shows up to unlock the door, but he doesn't take attendance.
"It's a culture that we have developed here," Mazzie said. "When October comes around I'm not beating down their door. They're beating down my door."
Mazzie, whose background is in baseball -- he played at Glenbard North -- was looking for an edge when he first started to coach softball. Lake Park's program traditionally hasn't had an abundance of slappers; an emphasis, then, was put on strength training.
Mazzie noted that high school coaches do not have the time with their kids to affect big changes in swing mechanics. He does believe, though, that strength can eliminate bad habits.
"The things that I can control is worth ethic and confidence," Mazzie said, "and working hard in the weight room gives you confidence. Strength is one of the more undertaught things to girls, because they're girls."
That added strength can help girls get the bat into the zone at the right time without dragging.
If you look at Lake Park's kids, it looks the part of a strong team.
Mazzie jokingly with admiration nicknamed senior Stephanie Starr "gun show" for her upper body strength. Shannon Fritsche might be "110 pounds soaking weight," but Mazzie noted she's putting up 45-pound dumb bells.
The results are showing, too.
In 10 games over two weeks' time -- all on the road -- the Lancers went 9-1, putting up more than 10 runs a game in their wins. That is with little, if any, pregame hitting work.
"If you have kids that want to get better, why not foster that opportunity?" Mazzie said. "All you can do is put yourself in the best possible position, and that still does not guarantee success. If you have kids that buy in, it's amazing to see what can happen."
Abello, Sclafani young catchers with pop:
Benet, generally, is recognized as the most powerful, potent lineup in the area and maybe the state. Montini, too, is showing quite a bit of pop early in the season.
At this point it's all started with their young catchers.
Benet sophomore Stephanie Abello and Montini freshman Alyssa Sclafani are both putting up big numbers the first two weeks.
Abello, moved from left field to catcher this spring, has wasted no time following up on a huge freshman year. The lefty nicknamed "Slap" is hitting .667 with 5 homers and 22 RBI. On Saturday at a tournament in Prophetstown, she hit a shot Benet coach Jerry Schilf noted wasn't 12 feet off the ground "240 feet into the wind."
"She is hitting the ball hard," Schilf said. "An opposing coach was telling their kids to get their gloves down or you'll lose your teeth."
More important to Schilf, though, has been Abello's seamless transition behind the plate. Abello has yet to allow a passed ball, nobody has stolen on her, and she has done well easing sophomore pitcher Emily York along.
"She has a gun of an arm, the kid is really athletic and she's learning to call a game," Schilf said. "We knew she could hit. The question was how good a catcher she'd be."
Sclafani had just 1 hit over Montini's first three games but is hitting over a.400 since then -- with power. The freshman already has 4 homers, a double and 8 RBI. In a game last week against IC Catholic Prep, Sclafani homered to straight center, then later check-swinged an opposite-field shot to right.
Montini coach Richie Costante noted that Sclafani's hand-eye coordination "is unreal" and is able to generate great power from her backside.
"She's got incredible hands. You can't throw a ball by her," Costante said. "Most power hitters have a tendency to feast on fastballs. Alyssa has such good hands that she's able to adjust to offspeed breaking pitches enough to keep on a pitch plane and make good contact."
The defense is there, too.
"I've had three coaches tell me they didn't try to steal because of her," Costante said. "That's impressive."
Games to watch this week:
Trinity at Downers Grove North, Tuesday: Two of the best hitters around, Michigan-bound Abby Ramirez and Illinois recruit Nicole Evans of Trinity match up against arguably the state's best pitcher -- Elaine Heflin of Downers Grove North.
St. Francis at Montini: Big game early in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue as Sara Ross and Montini visit Alyssa Fernandez and unbeaten St. Francis.
Neuqua Valley at Naperville Central: Always entertaining when these cross-town Naperville rivals get together, Jamie O'Brien and the Wildcats visit Keegan Hayes and the undefeated Redhawks.
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