The odds did not favor Bartlett having another strong softball season back in March.
The Hawks had plenty of talent returning from their 2012 Class 4A state runner-up team, but they lost an all-state catcher to injury and they had about 6 innings of varsity pitching experience returning.
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But here it is May a year later and, yep, there's Bartlett surging again. The Hawks are 18-6 overall and 9-2 in the Upstate Eight Conference, currently a game ahead of the pack in the Valley Division.
While the defense has been solid and the offense has produced an average of 8 runs per game, what has really come through for the Hawks is the pitching of senior Jessica Kirby and juniors Holly Pagan and Amy Johnson. Pagan is 9-3 with a 2.20 ERA, Kirby is 5-3 with a 2.21 and Johnson 2-0 with a 2.00.
"I've been really pleased with our pitching," said Hawks' coach Jim Wolfsmith. "We know that to go deep into the postseason you have to have good pitching and defense. I give those three a lot of credit. They knew coming in what a challenge it would be."
Wolfsmith doles out credit to two others -- junior catcher Dana Paul and assistant coach Rob Call. Paul has taken over for the injured Kaylyn Zierke behind the plate and Call does what a Call does best -- call pitches.
"Dana Paul stepped into a no-win situation almost, replacing an all-state catcher, and she's done a great job of receiving our pitchers and working with Rob," Wolfsmith said. "I'm blessed and I know I'm blessed. And Rob does a great job working with the pitchers and calling the game. We got through the growing pains early in the year and now all of our pitchers are pitching well and the defense is playing solid."
That's a defense that returned juniors Sydney Johnson (. 286, 18 RBI) at third base and Kayla Haberstich (. 487, 6 HRs, 42 RBI) at shortstop, as well as its entire starting outfield -- junior Alex Morales (. 366, 19 RBI) and seniors Cara Carrion and Rachel Odolski (. 453, 16 SBs, .481 OBP). The addition of freshmen Katie Fornoff (. 377, 13 RBI) at second base and Alyssa Nowak (. 389, 12 RBI) at first has made the Hawks' lineup a formidable one again. Bartlett is hitting .361 as a team and has an OBP of .427.
"It helped that we brought that much back from last year, especially in a spring like this one where there hasn't been that much practice time," Wolfsmith said. "We've hit the ball really well this year, and we knew we could hit. Kayla is having a great year and Rachel Odolski in the leadoff spot is getting on base at a phenomenal rate. The addition of Fornoff and Nowak has really helped solidify the offense. It helps the pitchers when they know you can score some runs and the pitchers have enough experience now they can go out and hold teams to 1-2 runs. It's been a nice mix of talent and a nice mix of pitching and I feel real good about where we're at right now."
One place Bartlett is right now is in a dogfight for the UEC Valley title. Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley, South Elgin and Lake Park are all one game behind the Hawks in the loss column. This week, Bartlett hosts Metea Valley Monday, goes to Metea Wednesday, hosts South Elgin Thursday and then hosts Waubonsie Valley on Saturday, May 11.
Rosemont happenings: South Elgin's game against Neuqua Valley that was scheduled to be played in the Chicago Bandits' stadium in Rosemont Friday has been rescheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. The Storm will get a second chance to play at The Ballpark at Rosemont on May 18 when they take on Wauconda in the 10 a.m. game of the Chicago Bandits High School Jamboree. Also on the schedule in Rosemont that day, Cary-Grove will face defending Class 4A state champion Marist at 6 p.m.
More Jam-boreeing: The annual Stone City Jamboree is also May 18 in Minooka. Bartlett will play Sandburg and Plainfield East, while Burlington Central will take on Lockport and Elgin will face Riverside-Brookfield. St. Charles North is also there and will play Plainfield East and Belleville East.
Competition please: With no disrespect intended to their 18-1 record, No. 6 ranking in the Daily Herald Top 20 and 15-game winning streak, Burlington Central hasn't exactly been severely tested lately. Genoa-Kingston did take the Rockets to nine innings, and Richmond-Burton played BC tough but since beating Marengo twice, Elgin, Geneva and then sweeping now red-hot Libertyville a month ago, BC has also had to play the likes of Harvard, North Boone and Rockford Lutheran. Now comes a Big Northern East series against Rockford Christian this week and a makeup with North Boone. The Tuesday home game against Rockford Christian should clinch no worse than a share of the BN-East title for the Rockets, their first since 2009.
But the schedule, after the Thursday game with Rockford Christian, takes a decided step up. Friday BC will face potential regional opponent Sycamore, then travel to Class 4A power Moline (13-3) for a Saturday doubleheader. The week of May 13 it really steps up a notch with games against DeKalb and Barrington and then a Stone City Jamboree matchup with powerful Lockport on May 18.
"We finish the regular season with exactly the schedule I want us to be playing," said BC coach Wade Maisto. "You couldn't ask for a better schedule than that heading into the regional."
On the mend: Burlington Central has been without junior left-hander Brooke Gaylord this week after she suffered an upper body injury in practice, according to Maisto. He said he hopes she's back late this coming week. Gaylord is 10-1 for the Rockets this season with a 1.36 ERA, and she's hitting .509 with 5 home runs and 19 RBI.
Gaylord's sister, Cassie, returned to action Saturday for this first time this season. She underwent labrum surgery in January, Maisto also said junior Tory Harvey is out indefinitely with a knee injury but that freshman Kayla Ross has stepped in and done a goof job at shortstop in Harvey's absence.
"Kayla is doing everything well," Maisto said.
Also on the mend: St. Edward freshman pitcher Lindsey Zdroik has been out action this past week with a sore arm. Green Wave coach Jaci Corn said she hopes to have Zdroik back later this coming week.
FVC Valley: Cary-Grove, Prairie Ridge and McHenry are fighting it out for the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division title. The Trojans and PR each have one division loss and McHenry has two. Cary-Grove hosts McHenry on Monday. The Trojans play PR again on May 13.
Fehlman Memorial Senior All-Star Game: The 10th Annual Fehlman Memorial Senior All-Star Game will be at Judson University on Monday, June 10 at 6:30 p.m. Coaches for the game this year will be Tom Poulin of St. Charles North and Anne Vogt of Larkin. Player invitations will go out May 15 and the teams will be announced May 22.
Postseason update: Westminster Christian will host a Class 1A regional at Jockey Field in East Dundee the week of May 13. The host Warriors (7-7) are the top seed and will play No. 4 St. Benedict on May 13 in one semifinal. The next day, No. 2 Christian Liberty and No. 3 Luther North will face off with the winners meeting on May 18 for the championship. The Westminster regional winner advances to the Iroquois West sectional in downstate Gilman.