To say Ashton Cattenhead has been a pleasant surprise for Glenbard South only tells half the story.
It was a surprise she's even here.
Cattenhead played for Glenbard South's freshman team two years ago, then moved to Huntley her sophomore year. Julie Fonda, the Raiders softball coach, didn't realize Cattenhead was back at Glenbard South until she bumped into her in the hallway last fall.
"I was like, 'Wait, you're back?'" Fonda said. "She said she moved back because she missed her friends and the school."
Where would the Raiders be without Cattenhead's return?
Batting cleanup on a team that graduated seven seniors off last year's Class 3A champions, Cattenhead is hitting a team-best .515. Her 31 runs batted in are second only to Jane Trzaska's 32, and her 23 runs scored are third on the team.
"She's been a great protector of Jane. You can't just walk Jane now," Fonda said. "A lot of people still walk Jane and Ashton makes them pay. Her hitting has kind of blown me away."
Cattenhead has a solid frame well-suited for Fonda's basketball team, but softball is her game. Fonda noted that there is no pattern to her hitting, and she is more aggressive than some power hitters.
"She's looking for a specific pitch," Fonda said, "and if you're going to put it in there she's going to rip it."
Cattenhead is a big reason why Glenbard South is 21-4 and in good position to make another run to state.
She's had some of her biggest hits against some of the best pitchers, too.
Cattenhead singled in the go-ahead in a 2-1 win over Downers Grove North and ace Elaine Heflin, and went 2-for-3 with the game's first RBI and a run scored versus Trinity and Chase Machain.
"She definitely prefers to hit against good pitching. She doesn't want to hit against the slow stuff," Fonda said. "The kid's just come back here seamlessly. That's resilience in my opinion."
Hohman a workhorse for Waubonsie:
Waubonsie Valley need not worry about who is pitching on any given day.
Shannon Hohman has that covered.
As much as any area pitcher, Hohman has been a workhorse for 19-5 Waubonsie.
She has thrown in 21 of the Warriors' 24 games, and in 109 innings she is 15-5 with a 1.73 earned-run average and 160 strikeouts.
Hohman threw four games in a day in Tennessee in March. Without thinking twice Waubonsie coach Aly Kelley plans to throw her sophomore this Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
It's hard to pry the ball out of Hohman's hand. Kelley likes that mentality.
"She's a gamer -- the kid always wants to stay in," Kelley said. "Shannon is so strong, she works out so much, she doesn't have issues with recovery days."
Hohman has been huge in Waubonsie's run to a repeat Upstate Eight Valley title.
Last week she took a shutout into the sixth inning of an eight-inning win at Neuqua Valley, beat Lake Park 6-1 and Metea Valley 10-0 then became the first pitcher this year to shut out Bartlett.
Hohman was Waubonsie's ace from Day 1 freshman year, but Kelley noted she's been much better at hiding her emotions as a sophomore.
"At times as a freshman you could read her like an open book," Kelley said. "We have really talked about having a poker face."
Kelley has also observed far fewer shake-offs between Hohman and catcher Amanda Lack, both honors students.
"They're not only athletic, but they have the brains to go with it," Kelley said. "Shannon's just such a hard worker. She makes filling a lineup out easy."
Lisle, IC in tough 2A regional:
Lisle has enjoyed great postseason success of late, winning four straight sectionals with one state appearance.
Just winning a regional could be a chore this week, though.
The Lions (13-10) open today against regional host Aurora Central, with IC Catholic Prep (18-10) playing Westmont and the regional final Saturday. Lisle coach Jen Pomatto agreed that winning a regional could be tougher than winning next week's sectional.
"I think our regional will definitely be harder than anything to get out of," Pomatto said.
Lisle didn't play IC this year but has played Westmont three times over the last eight days, Westmont winning two of those.
Pomatto thinks her team's modest record is a little deceiving.
"We're 13-10, but we easily could be 18-5," Pomatto said. "Some of that comes with experience, and some of it comes with confidence. Yes, our team is different than in the past, but we're right there. I keep telling them that they have the ability."
Pomatto can thank Summer Stitt for much of Lisle's success.
Stitt is hitting .417 and leads the Lions with 16 runs scored. More important is her pitching. She hadn't been asked to throw for Lisle before this year but this spring is 11-8 with a 2.03 ERA and 115 strikeouts.
Still has been victimized at times by her defense; of her 72 runs allowed, 36 are unearned.
"Summer has been phenomenal for us. She has definitely kept us in ballgames, which is what we needed," Pomatto said. "If anything our weakness has been our defense behind her. We've kind of let her down a little bit."
Games to watch this week:
Bartlett at Waubonsie Valley, Tuesday: The Warriors won 4-0 Saturday to pull even in the loss column in the UEC Valley. Can they do it again? A win puts them in the driver's seat to repeat as Valley champs.
Willowbrook at Downers Grove South, Wednesday: Let's play two! These teams first will finish an earlier contest suspended in the fifth inning with Downers Grove South ahead 2-1, then will play the regularly scheduled game. Win both, and Willowbrook will win a share of its first West Suburban Gold title.
Naperville Central vs. Trinity, Saturday: This feature game of the Bandits Jamboree in Rosemont could be a state tournament preview. The matchup of Redhawks ace Keegan Hayes against a Trinity lineup led by Abby Ramirez and Nicole Evans will be a treat to watch.