The future Maddie Zazases watched the real Maddie Zazas zip around bases and play impeccable shortstop Saturday.
Those Mundelein Baseball Softball Association girls are not that much younger than Zazas, in truth. They’ll be playing varsity before too long.
“Someday,” a smiling Zazas said. “Someday. It’ll happen.”
If the many little girls who watched Mundelein sweep Johnsburg in a nonconference doubleheader possess the same softball savvy as the 16-year-old Zazas, the future of Mustangs softball is bright. Mundelein celebrated its second annual MBSA Day by capturing the opening game 5-2 and then taking the second 14-4 on JV call-up Amanda Diaz’s walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.
Diaz, a freshman, was making her varsity debut.
“It was fun to be around the varsity girls and experience that,” Diaz said after going 2-for-4 with a double and 3 RBI. “I enjoyed it.”
With Mundelein’s varsity field unplayable due to too much rain in its outfield, the games were moved across the street to Carl Sandburg Middle School. A large crowd watched Mustangs pitcher Erin Kennelly throw a no-hit shutout for 5 innings before settling for a complete-game 4-hitter.
In between games, Mundelein’s players handed out the younger girls’ MBSA jerseys, interacted with them and gave them an introduction to varsity softball.
“We got a lot of positive vibes last year from this, so this is something we want to continue to do annually,” coach Brett Wilhelm said after his Mustangs improved to 11-3, while dropping Johnsburg to 3-7.
All youngsters in attendance got to watch Zazas put on a clinic at shortstop. The sophomore played 13 innings of errorless softball, registering 9 putouts and 5 assists without committing an error. She snagged a line drive in Game 2 and fired to third to double off a Johnsburg runner, completing a double play.
“She plays basketball in the winter, and I think that helps her out with her agility,” Wilhelm said. “Her range at short is something I’ve never seen. She’s just fun to have out there.”
Zazas may have “Z’s” in her last name, but her play is anything but sleepy. She started at shortstop for Wilhelm last spring, too, and patrols the position like she’s been playing it forever. She’s been a softball player since second grade, but hasn’t always been a shortstop.
“It’s really been a journey for me,” Zazas said. “For my travel team, I’ve been behind the plate or out in the field playing shortstop, wherever they want to put me. But I’ve really settled down at home with this team. I’ve found my place at shortstop. It’s been fun.”
Her feel for the game extends to the base paths, too. In the fifth inning of Game 1, Zazas tagged up and scored on Abbey Rosenow’s sky-high popup to shortstop.
“She’s just got a great knack for softball,” Wilhelm said. “She’s always in the game, on the field and off the field. She just knows situations.
“Whenever I get on base, I like to take advantage of the opportunities I get,” Zazas said. “Coach Wilhelm is always like, ‘If you’re ready to (run), you’re going. I’m sending you.’ So whenever I see an opportunity, I’m all over it.”
Funny thing is, Johnsburg shortstop Carly Wilson was still on the infield dirt when she caught Rosenow’s popup.
“It was risky,” Zazas said of tagging from third. “But he always sends me when he knows I’m confident doing it. And I go for it.”
Zazas, Hannah Bulgart and Kennelly each had 2 hits, while Haley Morelli tripled. Besides Rosenow, Chloe Peterson also hit a sacrifice fly. Zazas (2 stolen bases) and Emily Panitch executed a double-steal, which saw Panitch score from third base.
Bulgart reached to make a running catch of Kayla Toussiant’s line drive to left field, ending the fifth and keeping Kennelly’s no-hitter intact. But Bre Bear doubled leading off the sixth for the Skyhawks. Maycee Ward (triple) and Amanda Cherwin (double) had extra-base hits in Johnsburg’s 2-run seventh.
Mundelein started four JV players in Game 2, and each contributed. Batting leadoff, Diaz set the tone for a 9-run first inning by drawing a walk and stealing second base. She doubled in 2 runs later in the frame, and her walk-off single was pounded to center field.
“She’s got to be one of the best JV players in the area,” Wilhelm said.
Diaz, a middle infielder, might have started the season on varsity if Mundelein didn’t have the middle-infield duo of Zazas and fellow sophomore Maria DeVito.
“I usually play shortstop, but I also work on ‘2’ (second base),” Diaz said. “I like ‘2.’ When I’m practicing with the varsity, I like watching Maddie because she’s a good example at short.”
As for Mundelein’s other JV call-ups, sophomore catcher Brittany Woodyard drew a walk and played flawless behind the plate, freshman Karlee Busscher had a single and run scored, and junior Danielle Beelow belted an RBI triple, walked twice and scored twice.
DeVito pitched a complete-game 3-hitter, allowing no earned runs and striking out five. Zazas had 2 more hits, 2 more stolen bases and knocked in 3 runs. Nikki Zaprzalka was 2-for-4 with a 2-run single, and the slap-hitting Panitch went 2-for-2 with 2 walks.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.