NORTH SUBURBAN PRAIRIE
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Coach: Anthony Rocco (third season)
Last season: 22-14, 8-4 in NSC Prairie
Key losses: P Katie Phillips, 1B Kaytee Keefe (Rock Valley), 3B Kaylene Ressler (Lake County)
Returning players: Sr. RF/1B Sage Keyes, Sr. 2B Mackenzie Thomas, Sr. 3B Alyssa Dragin, Sr. OF Kaylee Karpiel, Jr. SS Jessica Pedersen, Jr. C/OF JessicaTyrell, Jr. OF Hannah Skoog, Jr. OF Taylor Schiltz
Newcomers: Jr. OF/3B/DP Bella Hoffman, Jr. 1B/DP Madeline Hart, Jr. 3B/C/DP Amanda Costain, Fr. 2B/OF/SS Ashley Stephens, Fr. 3B/C/SS Jillian Foote, Fr. P/OF Hannah Cook, Fr. P/OF Stephanie Bonaguidi, Fr. P/3B/SS Annie Wagner
Outlook: Two strong freshman classes in three years give the Sequoits reason for optimism the next couple of springs. After welcoming in 2012 a freshman group that included Jessica Pedersen, Jessica Tyrell, Hannah Skoog and Taylor Schiltz, the Sequoits are excited about Class-of-2017 additions Ashley Stephens, Jillian Foote, Hannah Cook, Stephanie Bonaguidi and Annie Wagner. Cook, Bonaguidi and Wagner will compete to be the Sequoits' ace, which Katie Phillips filled with all-area success the last two springs. "It could be a thing where we rotate (the three pitchers) throughout the year, depending on who's hot and who's not. Whoever isn't will get some reps at the freshman level," coach Anthony Rocco said. "Wagner is probably your more prototypical varsity pitcher. She's a little more polished. Hannah Cook is a junker style. She'll throw strikes and get you more on movement. Stephanie Bonaguidi throws hard. I think she's been pitching for less than a year, but she has some serious potential." In Stephens and Foote, the Sequoits boost a pair of ninth-graders with tons of potential. "(Foote) is a great third baseman and will probably lead off for us," Rocco said. "Great hitter. Strong arm. Very fast. Ashley Stephens will most likely get the start at second base. She's another girl with a strong arm and is very fast. She and Jillian are complete ballplayers." The returning starters include shortstop Pedersen (.366 batting average, 7 doubles, 27 RBI, 6 stolen bases in 2013), center fielder/slapper Skoog (.389, 16 RBI, 7 stolen bases), power-hitting catcher Tyrell, senior Sage Keyes, who moves from right field to first base, and slap-hitting left fielder Schiltz. "(Keyes) has probably been one of our best bats the last two years during the playoffs," Rocco said. "She really knows how to kick it in high gear when it comes down to crunchtime." Junior outfielder Amanda Costain is a transfer from Belvidere and definitely figures to contribute. "It could be a good two years in a row," Rocco said. "We can challenge this year and get ourselves ready for next year. I know pitching is a big question mark for us."
Coach: Mike Dolezal (ninth season)
Last season: 20-9, 10-2 in NSC Prairie
Key losses: C Kayla Uhwat (Lake County), RF Taylor Rossi, CF Jane Williams
Returning players: Sr. P Caityn Moran, Sr. 1B Jamie Reiser, Sr. LF/C Bri Dreschler, Sr. 3B Deanna Rodriguez, Sr. 2B Kaitlyn Wold, So. SS McKenzi Sancken
Newcomers: Fr. OF/IF Becca Wold, Fr. OF/P Kate Kaiser, Sr. OF Kari Bangsten, Sr. OF Alyssa Mathis, Sr. OF Ashley Mathis, Jr. C/IF Sarah Ayala
Outlook: For the first time, Grant heads into a season as the defending North Suburban Conference champions. "It's a good feeling," coach Mike Dolezal said. "We'll have to defend our title, but I think (the conference) is going to be pretty competitive. I think our division is going to be strong." What will help the Bulldogs as they defend their division title is having their two best players from last season back. Senior first baseman Jamie Reiser (.505 BA, 6 HR, 38 RBI in 2013) and senior pitcher Caitlyn Moran (18-8, 1.87 ERA, 241 K, .404 BA) both put together all-area campaigns, with Moran pitching the Bulldogs to victory over Zion-Benton in the NSC championship game. Both players are receiving college interest, but neither is committed. Dolezal calls the loss of catcher Kayla Uhwat "a big one." With Uhwat having graduated, Dolezal might move power-hitting Bri Dreschler from left field to behind the plate. Dreschler, sophomore shortstop McKenzi Sancken, senior third baseman Deanna Rodriguez and senior second baseman Kaitlyn Wold also started last season. "I'm pretty confident with the group," Dolezal said. "We have a lot of veterans. Last year was a real pleasant surprise with this group. They refused to lose."
Coach: Bill Hamill (sixth season)
Last season: 21-17, 7-5 in NSC Prairie
Key losses: C Meghan Milewski, 3B Marissa Thackston, 2B Kaela Bryant, RF Lindsay Meverden
Returning players: Sr. 3B/1B Montana Mang, Sr. OF Kate Hohenstatt, Jr. SS Cassidy Schaar, Sr. P Taylor Dishinger, So. P Ally Perdue, Jr. OF Lauren Clark, So. OF Ashley Horner, Sr. C/1B Violet Dinger
Newcomers: Sr. C/3B/1B Abbi Mehnert, So. OF Chandler Mang, Jr. IF/OF/C Michelle Houghton, Fr. 2B Jen Reed, Fr. 2B/SS/Of Karlie Rutunno
Outlook: Led by lefty leadoff batter Kate Hohenstatt, the Eagles should hit again this season. "I might be taking a glove and helmet out to the third-base coach's box," coach Bill Hamill joked. "I watched some of these girls pull a ball, and I'm like, 'I'm 48 years old now, I don't get out of the way as fast as I used to.' " Hohenstatt hit .382 in an all-conference/all-area season a year ago, while also playing a strong center field. The Eagles return two other all-NSC performers in senior Montana Mang, who moves from first base to third, and junior shortstop Cassidy Schaar. While replacing Meghan Milewski behind the plate will be a large task, the Eagles do boast a pair of experienced pitchers in senior Taylor Dishinger and sophomore Ally Perdue. They might share time in the circle. When Dishinger (all-conference in 2012) missed about three weeks last season with a shoulder injury, Perdue stepped in creditably. This year's squad includes freshmen Jen Reed and Karlie Rutunno, as well as sophomore Chandler Mang, Montana's sister. "There's a lot of chemistry. The girls get along well," said Hamill, whose last win last season was his 100th in five years as Lakes' head coach. "The older girls, the captains, really like the younger girls and think they add a lot to the team."
Coach: Travin Kozel (fifth season)
Last season: 5-22, 2-10 in NSC Prairie
Key losses: none
Returning players: Jr. 1B Hayley Steinberg, Sr. P/OF Kristin Pierce, Jr. P/OF Ashley Wegner
Newcomers: Jr. SS Raven Nicoline, C Kylie Bart
Outlook: Junior first baseman Hayley Steinberg earned all-conference honorable mention honors in her first varsity campaign last season. She along with fellow veterans Kristin Pierce and Ashley Wagner will lead a team that has made strides the last couple of years. "I believe that every single position on the field and in the batting order will be an improvement from last year," coach Travin Kozel said. "The returning players have a focus that has been contagious. However, we understand that wins in the North Suburban League are difficult to come by." Shortstop Raven Nicoline and catcher Kylie Bart "will add athleticism and skill to infield defense," Kozel said.
Coach: Steve Korney (fourth season)
Last season: 11-16, 7-5 in NSC Prairie
Key losses: P Jenn Claussen, RF Jordyn Comitor
Returning players: Jr. OF/2B Izzy Cirone, So. 1B Danielle Comitor, So. C Rose Ferolo, Sr. OF Nikki Goldstein, So. SS Dana Meline, So. 2B Sami Saliba, So. P/3B Carly Stern
Newcomers: Fr. IF Anna Cirone, Fr. IF/OF/C Anna Polisky, Fr. IF/OF Jess Salerno
Outlook: The Cougars are looking to build on the momentum they gained toward the end of last season when they made it to the sectional championship game before losing to Wauconda. They are a young team (only 2 upperclassmen) that hopes to develop and improve as the season progresses, coach Steve Korney said. Gone are veteran sluggers Jenn Claussen and Jordyn Comitor due to graduation. Sophomores Dana Meline (shortstop), Sami Saliba (second base), Danielle Comitor (first base) and Rose Ferolo (catcher), and junior Izzy Cirone (designated player) all started the sectional final. Midseason call-up Carly Stern, another then-freshman, was also up. Stern will handle the varsity pitching duties full-time this spring. She pitched well in a loss to a tough Mundelein team last season. "That was sort of her coming-out party to me -- that she could pitch at this level," Korney said. Nikki Goldstein is the lone senior, while the only junior is Cirone. Anna Cirone (Izzy's sister) is one of the three freshmen on the roster along with Anna Polisky and Jess Salerno. Korney added that his Cougars have increased their strength of schedule in an attempt to prepare them for tougher opponents in postseason play. Their season begins with four games in Lexington, Ky., as part of a spring break trip. "I think we're going to be quick. I think we have some speed, for sure," Korney said. "We're young, so we may have some rough spells this year, but I think it will be a growing experience. As these kids grow older and keep playing together, I think it will help us become a stronger program. It's a skilled group, too. A lot of these players have been playing together a long time."
Coach: Tim Rennels (15th season)
Last season: 22-13, 8-4 in NSC Prairie
Key losses: C Alex Kinnamon (Lake County), CF Kennedy Wright, 2B Megan Grobelny, LF/P Lexie Redmann, OF Emily Holub, 1B Maggie LePage, C/DP Megan Luchowski
Returning players: So. P Kayla Wedl, So. 3B Brooke Sefcik, Sr. SS Lauren Nee, Sr. OF Lauren Carney, Sr. IB Angie Exline, Sr. 2B Jena Heck, Sr. OF Alyssa Wagner, Sr. Marissa Honeyman, Jr. CF/C Paige Motley, Sr. P/IF Savannah Mitchell
Newcomers: Sr. C/OF Abby Baldocchi, Jr. OF Anna Wisniewski, So. C Taylor McCarthy, Fr. OF Sarah Ricci, Fr. OF/P Haley Redmann, Fr. 3B Alex Steffens
Outlook: The Bulldogs won their first sectional championship last season and could be in line for more big things this spring. What might help is that their ace is bigger. Kayla Wedl, who put together an all-conference/all-area campaign in the circle as a freshman, has grown about three inches, coach Tim Rennels said. Wedl now stands about 5 feet 8. "I had her in study hall the first semester and I just watched her grow before my eyes," Rennels said. "With that (added) height, (coupled) with her mechanics, she's throwing hard. We've got her up over 60 (mph), and we've got her change coming in (in) the low-40s. I think we're going to see her bloom." Shortstop Lauren Nee, who's coming off an all-area season in basketball, will be starting for the third year in a row, and the captain is Rennels' most-experienced senior. Senior captain Angie Exline (first base) and senior Jena Heck (second base) missed last season with injuries. Another senior captain, Alyssa Wagner, will start in the outfield. She hit over .400 in limited time last season. Wedl's longtime travel catcher, Taylor McCarthy, will start behind the plate for the first time on varsity this spring. McCarthy happens to be a lefty. "She's got a quick snap throw to both corners and really handles Wedl well back there," Rennels said. Besides Wedl, power-hitting third baseman Brooke Sefcik also started on varsity as a freshman and made all-NSC honorable mention. With an ace pitcher and seemingly ample hitting, the Bulldogs are excited about this spring. "We want to keep it going," Rennels said. "We've definitely got the (pitcher) and a good solid infield around her. We're going to have a fleet outfield, a little more speed on the base paths, and I've got bats."
NORTH SUBURBAN LAKE
Coach: Amanda Rodriguez (first season)
Last season: 20-10, 8-4 in NSC Lake
Key losses: C Kaylee Grant (moved to Texas), 2B Caty Grahf
Returning players: Sr. 3B/1B Maria Schroeder, Sr. SS Carlee Parsons, Sr. 1B Mallory Parsons, Sr. LF Katie Brown, Sr. CF Vivian Juarez, Sr. RF McKenna Larson, Jr. 2B/OF Brittney Pettinger, Jr. OF/2B Rachel Dawson, Sr. P/OF Olivia Schneider, Sr. C/1B Jenni Gorey
Newcomers: Sr. 2B Maddie Minneci, Fr. C Amanda Guercio, So. SS/2B Vanessa DiVencenzo, Sr. P/OF Susie Rubiano, So. P/1B Katie Malek
Outlook: Former Round Lake softball player Amanda Rodriguez takes over the Bears after new-mom Michaela Towne stepped down following last season. Rodriguez certainly is no stranger to the North Suburban Conference, as she's also been coaching in Lake Zurich's program for 12 years. "I'm excited that my first year as head coach is with girls that I am close to," Rodriguez said. The first-year head coach inherits a perennial 20-win squad that lost only two starters and boasts three returning all-conference players in Bradley-bound third baseman Maria Schroeder (.466 BA, 8 doubles, 10 triples, 5 HR, 40 RBI, 10 SB last season), senior outfielder Katie Brown (.417 BA, 40 hits, 19 RBI, 16 SB) and senior first baseman Mallory Parsons, who's another slugger. Senior shortstop Carlee Parsons is another veteran who hits the ball hard. All-area catcher Kaylee Grant moved back to Texas in January. Little lefty Olivia Schneider is back in the circle. In the hard-hitting Schroeder, the Bears boast a player who's been an all-conference performer since 2011 and is a two-time all-area selection. "I have high hopes for these girls and what they are going to accomplish this year," Rodriguez said. "And I know these girls have high expectations of themselves. Most of them have been on varsity for 3-4 years and understand the competition, and are excited to have an amazing senior year."
Coach: Elissa Wisniewski (third season)
Last season: 18-16, 5-7 in NSC Lake
Key losses: 2B Izzy Alesna, OF Margaret Haws, C Haley Hoeksel
Returning players: Sr. SS/2B Tayler Oberman, Jr. 1B Madi Dembinski, Sr. C Andi Katz, So. 3B/SS Jamie Stevens, Sr. P Haley Alban, Jr. P/OF Michaela Mooney, Sr. P/OF Carlie Haraden, Sr. OF/SS Taylor Zoellick
Newcomers: So. IF/OF/P Jessie Lauret, Fr. IF/OF Samantha Hilldale, Fr. OF Kenzie Rother
Outlook: The Wildcats jumped from 17 wins in Elissa Wisniewski's first year as head coach to 18 last season. They could see greater improvement this spring. "We're really excited about the speed we added," Wisniewski said. "I think that will help us put a lot of pressure on defenses." The Wildcats' swiftness starts with three-year varsity starter and two-time all-area player Tayler Oberman, who signed with Wisniewski's college alma mater, Winona State, in the off-season. The lefty-hitting shortstop hit .404 with 26 stolen bases last season, and she won't be the Wildcats' only threat on the bases. The Wildcats have welcomed in sophomore slapper Jessie Lauret, who batted at the top of Zion-Benton's varsity lineup last spring. "Very fast," Wisniewski said. "Great bat control. I'm just really excited that we have another speed component in our lineup." Wisniewski also added a pair of freshman slap hitters in Samantha Hilldale and Kenzie Rother. Besides Oberman, the Wildcats feature three other players who earned all-conference honors last season -- first baseman Madi Dembinski (.380 BA, 25 RBI), catcher Andi Katz (.350 BA, 20 RBI) and third baseman Jamie Stevens (.351 BA, 18 RBI). Haley Alban returns in the circle. Fellow returnees Michaela Mooney and Carlie Haraden also pitch, as does Lauret. "We have a lot of talent, so we're looking forward to getting started," said Wisniewski, whose Wildcats leave Saturday to Orlando, Fla., where they are scheduled to play five games, including a pair of doubleheaders. "We don't have a traditional-sized roster (11 players, total), but we have a lot of athleticism, and our kids can play multiple positions well."
Coach: Brett Wilhelm (third season)
Last season: 25-10, 7-5 in NSC Lake
Key losses: RF Haley Morelli (Wisconsin-Whitewater), OF Chloe Peterson, P/3B Erin Kennelly (Monmouth), P Molly Ellett
Returning players: Sr. OF/DP Lauren Fairweather, Sr. 1B Abbey Rosenow, Jr. SS Maddie Zazas, Jr. 3B/P/2B Maria DeVito, Jr. OF Hannah Bulgart, Jr. C Maggie Mahar
Newcomers: Jr. 1B/P Jamie Hemmer, So. P/OF Nicole Parney, Jr. P/OF Holly Petlak, So. 2B Amanda Diaz, Sr. OF Danielle Beelow, So. OF Karlee Busscher, So. OF Victoria Avis, Jr. C/OF Brittany Woodyard
Outlook: The Mustangs have righted their program the last couple of years, jumping from 16 wins to 25 last season, and the progress should continue this spring. They return three all-conference players in slugging outfielder Lauren Fairweather (.348 BA, 9 HR, 39 RBI last season) along with shortstop Maddie Zazas (.403 BA 48 R) and Maria DeVito, who played second base last spring but will move to third and also pitch this season. Lefty first baseman Abbey Rosenow was all-NSC honorable mention as a junior last season. "We're very junior-sophomore dominant," coach Brett Wilhelm said. "That's a nice thing. We're a young team and have a lot of girls up from last year's (20-plus-win) JV team that are going to fill some big roles this year." Junior catcher Maggie Mahar and junior left fielder Hannah Bulgart both started last season also, but Bulgart is sidelined with what Wilhelm called a torn labrum/biceps. With both Erin Kennelly and Molly Ellett having graduated, DeVito and sophomore newcomer Nicole Parney might split time in the circle. Junior newcomers Jamie Hemmer, who like Mahar is coming off a successful basketball season, and Holly Petlak also pitch. "The nice thing is we have four girls who are pitching pretty well," Wilhelm said. "We haven't had that in a long time." Sophomore Amanda Diaz looks to take over t second base. "I think our infield is very solid -- one of the better infields I've seen at Mundelein in a long time," Wilhelm said. Sophomore newcomer Karlee Busscher figures to start in center field, with senior Danielle Beelow occupying one of the corner outfield spots. "We are so much further ahead this year than last year -- just our practices, our focus, the way we look offensively and defensively," Wilhelm said. "I'm very, very pleased with where we're at, with not even being able to play on a field yet."
Coach: Larry Friedrichs (27th season)
Last season: 17-14, 4-8 in NSC Lake
Key losses: P Sam Feder, OF Morgan Manka, OF Sara Loerch
Returning players: Sr. 1B Abby O'Connor, Sr. OF Lexi Yonkovic, Sr. OF/DP Kat Trotter, Jr. SS Taylor Koenigs, Sr. KJ Noronha, Sr. 3B Dana Morgan, Sr. 2B Jordan Cortesi, So. C Trisha Porzycki
Newcomers: So. P Myra Peterson, So. P Ruby Mankus, Fr. OF/IF Vera Pflugradt, Fr. OF/IF Emma Oriatti, Jr. OF Molly Thon
Outlook: Coach Larry Friedrichs would pop his head in during off-season open gyms and would see his softball players organized in groups. "It's a great group of leaders -- and not just the seniors," he said. "The kids that have been around for a couple of years have been good program leaders." Friedrichs enters his 27th season 4 wins shy of 500. His Patriots welcome back a pair of all-conference/all-area players in senior first baseman Abby O'Connor (.383 BA, 4 HR, 38 RBI last season) and speedy junior shortstop Taylor Koenigs (.426 BA, 6 HR, 37 RBI). Outfielders Lexi Yonkovic and Kat Trotter are both four-year varsity players. In three-year varsity third baseman Dana Morgan, second baseman Jordan Cortesi, Koenigs and O'Connor, the Patriots have their entire starting infield back. Trisha Porzycki is back to catch after starting on varsity as a freshman last spring. With Sam Feder having graduated and Lindsey Micucci deciding not to come out, sophomores Myra Peterson and Ruby Mankus will handle the pitching duties. Both pitched at the JV level last spring. "They're different styles," Friedrichs said of his two new pitchers. "They've both been working hard since last year." Freshman Vera Pflugradt will add a dimension of speed. Friedrichs is carrying 13 girls on his roster. "Most of these kids are pretty versatile," he said. "The upperclassmen are pretty sturdy."
Coach: Bryan McNulty (first season)
Last season: 28-7, 9-3 in NSC Lake
Key losses: CF Megan Sowa (Drake), 1B Amy Ricci (Wisconsin-Whitewater), SS Jill Fox, C Sam Belletini, OF Lisiann Rodriguez, OF Kelly Majewski
Returning players: Sr. P Jana Wagner, Sr. OF Michelle Vasen, Sr. 3B Megan Scott, Sr. C Jodie Hurd, Jr. SS Shannon McKeon, Sr. OF Jazmin Bonke, Sr. P Jenny Carpenter
Newcomers: Jr. 1B Rachele Belletini, Jr. 2B Amber Leneau, So. OF Crystal Pennell, So. IF/OF Sabrina Trevino
Outlook: Before he embarks on what he hopes will be a long and successful career as Warren's head football coach, Bryan McNulty will tackle softball. He replaces Tina Meyer, who's now at Zion-Benton, and said he will look "to improve on last year's historic run," which ended with a supersectional loss to Barrington. Gone is outfielder Megan Sowa, the captain of last year's Daily Herald Lake County All-Area team after batting .513 with 27 extra-base hits, as well as slugging first baseman Amy Ricci (.377 BA, 7 HR, 52 RBI) and sure-handed shortstop Jill Fox. But the returning talent includes 2013 all-conference selections Jana Wagner and Michelle Vasen (.345 BA, 9 doubles), as well as all-NSC honorable mention choices Jenny Carpenter and Jodie Hurd. Third baseman Megan Scott and outfielder Jazmin Bonke hit .337 and .323, respectively, last season. Wagner, who pitched Warren to the NSC title two years ago, and Carpenter give the team a pair of aces. Wagner went 17-4 with a 1.41 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 124 innings last season. Carpenter was 8-3 with a 1.74 ERA. "Pitching," McNulty said, "should be a strength."
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC
Coach: Jason Raymond (12th season)
Last season: 21-12, 11-7 in ESCC
Key losses: P Nicole Bitter, 1B Skyler Zak, P Erika Schoenfeld
Returning players: Sr. SS Kathleen Felicelli, Sr. RF Amy Abel, Jr. 3B Jenny Behan, Jr. P Mia Dicara, Jr. DP/1B Sarah Koesser, Jr. CF Sam Melillo, So. 2B Dani Delozier, So. 1B/P Claire Petrus, So. C Amanda Elert
Newcomers: So. 2B/OF Annie Poll, So. LF Emma Bartz, Jr. C Madi Demarco, Jr. 2B Caley O'Brien
Outlook: The Corsairs boast two of Lake County's best sluggers and return a wealth of other experienced players. "With that experience comes the memories of a sectional-final loss in 2012 and a tough (regional-final) loss in 2013 to Fremd," coach Jason Raymond said. "As a team, we are looking to use the experiences of the last two years to propel us to another level in the state tournament. Another one of our goals that we would like to accomplish is to crack the top three of the ESCC. We set a goal of a top-five finish in 2013 and we were able to achieve that goal. Now we are looking to move up." The Corsairs project to be a strong offensive team anchored by shortstop Kathleen Felicelli, third baseman Jenny Behan, first baseman Sarah Koesser and right fielder Amy Abel. The foursome combined for 24 home runs in 2013. Felicelli and Behan, who committed to James Madison before her sophomore season last year, have 26 and 18 homers, respectively, in their careers. Another longball hitter, Amanda Elert, will miss the season. An all-area player as a freshman catcher last season, Elert tore her ACL in December. "While it was a devastating injury, the great news is she has a tremendous attitude and is right on schedule with her rehabilitation," Raymond said. "We will miss her production (10 HR, 44 RBI, 2 grand slams, .409 BA in 2013) and all of the intangibles that she brings to the field. But at the same time, this provides other players the opportunity to step up." Sam Melillo, Emma Bartz, Claire Petrus and Dani Delozier "will inject speed and baserunning savvy into our lineup," Raymond said. "(Sophomore) Emma Bartz is a newcomer to watch. Her strength and athleticism are off the charts. She has tremendous bat speed with a ton of power. At the same time, she is probably the fastest player that we have had in the Carmel softball program in over 10 years. She can fly." Defensively, Raymond expects his team to take a major step forward due to his players' versatility. Nicole Bitter, a varsity pitcher since she was a freshman and 13-game winner last season, did not come out for her senior year. Mia Dicara and Claire Petrus will handle the pitching duties. Last year, Dicara was 5-3 with a 3.78 ERA on varsity as a sophomore. "She is a cerebral pitcher who locates the ball effectively," Raymond said. "She is a tremendous athlete who has gotten a lot stronger this off-season. She has added a few miles per hour to her fastball." When she is not pitching, Petrus will play first base. "I think both pitchers will complement each other nicely," Raymond said. Bitter, who started for Carmel's sectional-champion basketball team, will be missed. "Great kid," Raymond said. "She made me laugh a lot."
FOX VALLEY / FOX DIVISION
Coach: Jason Schaal (first season)
Last season: 14-20, 5-7 in FVC Fox
Key losses: SS Caitlin Flary, OF Taylor Peterson, 3B Caitlin Tarnowski, 2B Kourtney Passarella, OF Anna Strickland
Returning players: Sr. P/IF/OF Brittany Brown, Sr. 1B Jamie Brew, Sr. IF/OF Theresa Curtis, Sr. OF Kaleigh Snyder, Jr. 3B/P Brandy Heraty, Jr. OF/IF Skyler Long, Jr. C Katie Strickland, Jr. SS Juliana Frusolone, Sr. IF Shelby White
Newcomers: Jr. IF/OF Emma Eiserman, Jr. OF Anna Jensen, So. C/OF Maddie Marshall, So. IF/OF Teagan Truskowski
Outlook: When Jason Schaal arrived from South Elgin, the Rams got more than a Life Fitness department chair. They also got their replacement for Abbey Tadelman, who's now an assistant AD. Schaal coached South Elgin for seven years, winning three regional titles in as many tries, while going 130-110. "I'm looking forward to getting a new opportunity," Schaal said. He takes over a team that boasts its share of returning talent. Brittany Brown, who started at third baseman as a sophomore, is back to pitch again, and fellow returnee Brandy Heraty also pitches. "I'm happy with the way both are working," Schaal said. "They're hard workers and they're great leaders." Brown hit .330 last season, in addition to be the Rams' No. 1 pitcher. First baseman Jamie Brew is another leader who's been starting the last couple of years and likely will bat in the middle of the order. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity of working with Jamie," Schaal said. "She's a leader in the building. Everybody knows her name." Junior Katie Strickland is back, too, and will catch. "Our assistant coach (Meghan Lynn) is new as well, and she actually thought Strickland was a senior from her composure," Schaal said. "She's going to call her own games." Senior Shelby White, who was injured most of last season, figures to play second base with junior Juliana Frusolone at shortstop and Heraty at third. The starting outfield candidates include senior Kaleigh Snyder and junior Skyler Long. Middle infielder Teagan Truskowski and catcher/outfielder Maddie Marshall are two sophomores who made the team. "The girls have brought a positive attitude and a great work ethic," said Schaal, whose team will fly to Orlando, Fla., on Monday morning to play five games, starting Monday night. "I look forward to the Grayslake rivalry (with Grayslake North). I think it will be fun. I think it will be an exciting year."
Coach: Molly Tomlinson (sixth season)
Last season: 19-9, 11-1 in FVC Fox
Key losses: SS Jordyn Bowen (Northern Illinois), 3B Kelsey Borders (Findlay)
Returning players: Sr. OF Mariah Gentile, Sr. P/1B Nikki Livengood, Sr. P Kelsey Delahunty, Sr. OF/3B Maddie Terlap, Sr. C Kaitlyn Olsen, Jr. P/1B/3B Sarah Littleton, Jr. 2B/SS Kayla Switalla
Newcomers: Jr. OF Cassie Cowperthwaite, So. P/IF Danielle Runyon, Jr. C Jenny Moore, Sr. 2B Melanie Rosario, Jr. OF Allison Szramek, So. P/SS Jessica Vaughn
Outlook: The Knights seek a "three-peat" in the Fox Valley Fox this season, but will do so without two big bats from the last couple of seasons, as Jordyn Bowen and Kelsey Borders are both playing in college. Both were four-year varsity players. Back is pitcher/first baseman Nikki Livengood, who will be playing her fourth season on varsity. She comes off a season in which she pounded 4 home runs and 10 doubles, while driving 27 runs. Junior Sarah Littleton also clubbed 4 homers last year. Junior Kayla Switalla is also back, looking to build on a strong 2013 campaign (33 H, 3 HR, 21 RBI). Livengood, Littleton and Switalla all earned all-conference honors last season. "We have many returning players this season who bring an outstanding work ethic, fantastic attitude and incredible softball talent," said coach Molly Tomlinson, whose Knights won the FVC Fox outright in 2012 before sharing the title with Crystal Lake Central last year. "Along with those returning players, we are excited about the new players that we have to fill some key positions in the infield, like shortstop and third base, as well as the outfield. Nikki Livengood and Sarah Littleton will be great mentors to (sophomores) Jessica Vaughn and Danielle Runyon both in the circle and in the batter's box. One of our team goals this year is to win conference. I'm also very excited about our senior leadership this year. Our versatile offensive lineup will be a combination of short game, power hitting and quickness on the bases." Like its crosstown rival, the Knights will play in Florida next week. "We are very excited to play six games in Florida at ESPN's Wide World of Sports in Orlando," Tomlinson said.