Aly Kelley's memories of her first meeting with Amanda Minahan are vivid, but not altogether flattering.
"When I first got here," said the third-year Waubonsie Valley coach, "one of the first open gyms she came to and she was hitting soft toss into the mat. I asked another coach, 'Who is that girl who thinks she's all that?' The coach told me she was pretty good, but her attitude seemed all about me. I was not interested in that at all."
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These days Kelley doesn't know what she'd do without her senior shortstop.
The numbers speak for themselves -- .545 average, 5 homers, 26 runs batted in for a 14-4 team. Minahan boasts a rocket arm at shortstop that any girl would be jealous of.
Just as important is the "no-drama" leadership Minahan brings to the Waubonsie dugout.
"She has completely matured and grown. I think about when I was a senior, I was nothing like that," Kelley said. "She just takes care of everything in the dugout. I think she's realized how talented she is and is really serious about softball."
Minahan will play next year at South Alabama. Besides the softball, Minahan perhaps most looks forward to moving back to a warm weather climate, and going to school next to the beach in Mobile.
She has good reason. Minahan moved to Illinois from Orange County, Calif., after the seventh grade. She's grown used to the Chicago weather, but still.
"It's too bipolar," was Minahan's apt description.
Interesting, though, that when Waubonsie played Plainfield Central in frigid conditions in March, the former California girl was the only position player not wearing a pullover and earmuffs.
"I try to tough it out," she said. "I feel I play better without the extra layers tightening up my arms."
Minahan's best softball moment was hitting a game-winning homer in extra innings against Bartlett last year, maybe the biggest hit in the Warriors overtaking Bartlett to win their first conference title in 11 years.
Waubonsie is back in the thick of things, and there is no player Kelley trusts more with the game on the line.
"If you put a ball or a bat in her hand, she's going to make a play," Kelley said. "If we want the game to end on a good note, we'd want the ball hit to her. Everybody would want her in the batter's box. The faith the other kids have in her is mind-blowing. The best thing about her is, she's mentally tough. One bad at bat, she's fine, she bounces back. She doesn't dwell on anything."
Downers North's Heflin perfect again:
Dominant pitching, it seems, is an asset in short supply around the area this spring.
Elaine Heflin is the best exception to that rule.
Continuing to build on the commonly held opinion that she's the best pitcher in the state, Heflin threw her second perfect game of the season Friday. The Downers Grove North struck out 14 in beating York 5-0.
Scary thing is, Heflin did it without perhaps her best stuff. She threw 24 hours after a loss to Marist.
"She was still fast, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't the overpowering stuff and velocity she has sometimes," Trojans coach Mark Magro said. "Her riseball was working, and so was her change. Most important, she hit her spots."
With co-ace Dale Ryndak out since the season's first week with a torn ACL, Heflin has shouldered a bigger load. She hasn't disappointed. Heflin is 9-3 with a 0.61 earned run average -- and, testament to her dominance, has struck out 148 batters in just 80 innings.
"She has gone above and beyond this year," Magro said.
Magro has seen a maturation in a kid who came to Downers Grove North with huge expectations.
All-Area as a freshman, Heflin missed her sophomore year with a back injury. Now she is carrying a much bigger leadership role.
"She is special. The best part is, she's so humble," Magro said. "She has controlled her anger and learned to channel it the right way. She wants the ball. I asked her after the Marist game, 'Do you want to pitch tomorrow?' And she said, 'Of course I'm pitching tomorrow.'"
Lisle gets its field back:
As if Monday's warm, sunny weather wasn't enough to put Jen Pomatto in a good mood, she got another piece of welcome news.
Lisle has its field back.
Marooned for two weeks after flooding rains, the Lions played their first game back on their home field Monday against Seneca. They practiced last Thursday on their JV team's limestone field.
With a little neighborly assistance, Lisle was able to make the best out of a bad situation.
The Lions played a pair of five-inning games at Sandwich last week, and then Benet offered its field. Lisle played Manteno and Wilmington at Benet, the latter game originally scheduled to be played in Wilmington but moved to Lisle due to poor weather south.
Lisle was actually able to get in a varsity and a JV game in at Benet Friday, as Benet accommodated the Lions by doing pregame work on grass.
"They took good care of us," Pomatto said. "It was nice of them."
With 16 games in the bank, Lisle finds itself in the fortunate position not to have any reschedules left to get in. Credit some forward thinking. The Lions have played conference weekday doubleheaders against Coal City and Sandwich, five innings each game.
It isn't the ideal scenario, but then this has been far from an ideal spring.
"My philosophy is, if we can play, let's play," Pomatto said. "I'd rather play two five-inning games than have to pack six games into the last week of the season before the playoffs."
Games to watch this week:
Neuqua Valley at Waubonsie Valley, Tuesday: Both teams come off tough 1-run losses Monday, and this should be another close, important game in the wide-open Upstate Eight Valley.
Glenbard South at Benet, Wednesday: Two of the area's best bets to go to state step out of conference for a day. Glenbard South, in particular, has a tough week, hosting Trinity Friday.
Lake Park at Naperville Central, Saturday: The Redhawks could be 22-0 going into this morning doubleheader. These two teams boast two of the three best lineups in the area.