When Maddi Doane is having a difficult game, she knows where to turn for inspiration.
She can look to the initials "PMD" on a wrist tattoo, for her late mom, Patti Maddi Doane. Or to a bracelet that reads "Patti Doane" on one side and "Guardian Angel" on the other.
"I look down at it, and focus," the Naperville Central junior said. "I realize that things could be worse."
Patti Doane passed away from breast cancer in October 2011. The first couple months were rough, and softball wasn't easy either. Maddi slumped.
She found her way out of it, and in a sense her mom was a big reason why. Patti was always brimming with optimism. Battling the cancer and seeing how strong she was through all the treatments and hospital visits taught Maddi to remain strong.
"I learned to use it positively," Doane said. "I think about playing for her, instead of using it as a burden."
Doane now finds herself on quite a hot streak.
Coming into Monday the Redhawks' leadoff hitter was batting .579 on the young season. Last week alone she was 10 for 16 with 4 doubles, 2 triples and a homer, twice coming a homer short of the cycle.
She doubled two more times Monday for 11-0 Naperville Central, off to its best start in 25 years.
"To say that she's been our most valuable offensive player would be completely understating the obvious," Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum said. "I can't remember a kid having the two weeks she's had. You're sort of surprised when she doesn't get a hit."
Maddi noted that her mom, a 1978 Naperville Central graduate, was a great badminton player. Soccer was the calling for her cousins Jerry Maddi, now playing at Wisconsin, and Gina Maddi, now at Western Michigan.
Softball was Maddi Doane's sport, but she never was a leadoff hitter until Nussbaum convinced her to try it this spring. As a sophomore she hit second between Nicole Kappelman and Kelsey Gonzalez and hit .398 with 30 runs scored.
She volunteered to lead off, with the understanding she was volunteering temporarily.
"I was a little skeptical about it, but he talked me into it and I'm kind of glad I tried it," Doane said. "I've never really had this much of a hot streak before. It seems like I've become so much more relaxed at the plate."
Doane originally committed to St. Louis, but at the beginning of the school year she switched gears and committed to Syracuse. She's the biggest reason behind arguably the best Redhawks lineup in recent memory but far from the only one. In fact Nussbaum noted that in their first nine games the Redhawks had nine girls deliver the eventual game-winning RBI.
"As well as Maddi is performing, the other girls aren't far behind," Nussbaum said. "We're in one of those stretches where it's always fun to come to the ballpark, and you never want it to rain."
Mark Olson joked that he is fortunate to be bald, or he'd be pulling his hair out.
His Addison Trail Blazers are keeping things exciting.
The Blazers have won three 1-run games in the young season, two by the walk-off variety. Against Hoffman Estates, a basehit by Crystal Marinelli scored Sabrina Muell in the bottom of the seventh for a wild 12-11 win. Four days later, Addison Trail rallied from a 6-0 deficit to beat Resurrection 8-7, Alex DeSilvio singling in Kelly Delawder for the game-winner.
"It's been interesting -- we keep fans in the stands," Olson said, adding "it's a testament to the girls and their effort that they are able to battle through. Our big thing we talk about is how adversity brings opportunity, and they've risen to the challenge."
Addison Trail is now 5-5, doubling last year's win total of 2, but Olson sees no reason to stop at 5 wins.
The going gets tougher this week, as West Suburban Gold play starts with presumed favorite Willowbrook and Downers Grove South. Winning a few close calls early can't hurt a building Blazers program under a first-year coach.
"When you come back and win games, continue to battle back, it shows what kind of kids you have," Olson said. "Our girls have responded, and it's fantastic."
Tough road ahead for Lancers:
When East Aurora called Lake Park to postpone their Monday game, it afforded Tom Mazzie's Lancers the chance to practice outdoors on their field for the first time.
Yes, that's the kind of spring it's been.
The called game could be a blessing in disguise.
Lake Park (11-2), which has played just two homes games all year, hits the road for a tough, busy week. The Lancers are at St. Charles North today, at Bartlett Wednesday, weather permitting, then head to Ohio Thursday for four games at the Wendy's Classic.
Neuqua Valley and Bartlett will also be at the 24-team event in Ashland, Ohio.
"We've had this week circled for a long time," Mazzie said. "You always want to have a litmus test to see where you're at, and this is it."
Lake Park had been rolling along, a 2-0 loss to Glenbard North the only blip in the radar, until getting beat 14-2 by St. Charles East on Friday.
Mazzie thinks that that setback might not be the worst thing in the world.
"When you're 11-1, sometimes you lose focus on the little things that got you there," Mazzie said. "I'm hoping that loss regains the fire. I'm hoping that this week is a bounce-back week, but it's also a challenging week."
Connolly nets honor at DePaul:
Former West Chicago star Mary Connolly, a sophomore at DePaul, was named the Big East Softball Player of the Week this past week. Connolly led the Blue Demons to a 5-0 week, going 9-for-14 for a .643 average with 2 home runs, a triple, a double, 12 RBI and 7 runs scored as DePaul scored 65 runs. Connolly was a four-time Daily Herald All-Area selection while at West Chicago.
Games to watch:
St. Charles North at Glenbard North, Thursday: The North Stars have had a few early hiccups, but Sabrina Rabin and Co. still will provide Sydney Benz and the Panthers with maybe their sternest test to date. Possible sectional final preview?
Benet at Providence, Saturday: Two of the leading contenders in the East Suburban Catholic square off for a doubleheader. Benet and Maeve McGuire won the ESCC last year, but it was Providence that got to state in Class 3A.