After a difficult start to the Cray Allen era, the Harper College softball tream is looking to bounce back following last season's 4-20 overall record. The Hawks went 4-14 in the North Central Community College Conference in the distinguished coach's first year of NJCAA play.
"Offensively, we are going to be solid," Allen said of this year's edition. "We are going to be competitive."
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Allen is looking to four freshmen to help the resurgence. First base will be split by two of them, two-time all-Upstate Eight selection Sam Cummings (Lake Park) and Raegan Fingerman (Barrington).
A pair of onetime McHenry High School teammates -- second baseman Beth Petrunich and outfielder Lindsay Cannon -- will also be counted upon this season. The duo helped McHenry capture regional championships in 2012 and '13.
One key returner is sophomore Jazz Skor. She led the Hawks in four offensive categories last season -- average (.328), hits (21), triples (4), runs (12) and OPS (.850). Allen say he plans to have Skor pitch quite a bit this season, too, but she'll spend most of her time in the outfield along with some time at shortstop.
The player who has made the most improvement coming into the season may be third baseman Kaitlyn Keegan (Elk Grove).
"The coaching staff could not be happier with her improvement," Allen said.
In Allen's unconventional defensive schemes, Keegan will be a key to success.
"She's going to be relied on heavily to be a defensive stopper," Allen said.
Also back from last year's team is utility player Jessica DuBrock. She'll be joined by another Leyden High School product this season, freshman Anna Kawka.
Teaming with Skor on the mound will be Lake Forest College transfer Tori Liewergen. She'll be the Hawks' primary starter.
The upbeat Allen hopes to take a hands-off approach when Liewergen is on the mound. He likes her ability to battle on the mound.
"She's going to hit her spots," Allen said.