Hard work and having good connections has paid off for Dundee-Crown senior-to-be Sydney Ruggles.

One of the top pitchers in the area, Ruggles has committed to play softball on scholarship for Loyola University upon her high school graduation.

"My pitching coach (Mike Freese of Barrington) has connections with (Loyola)," Ruggles said. "I went to a pitching camp there and heard the head coach really liked me."

The Freese connection with Loyola is a close one -- Mike's son, Brian, is a volunteer assistant coach for the Ramblers.

And Ruggles showed her mettle at the right time -- with Loyola coach Jeff Tylka watching her in person.

"At regionals, I did really well against Hampshire," said the right-hander, who plays for the Northern Illinois Lightning 18U travel team. "Barrington was there scouting the game and recorded it all and sent it to Loyola then coach Tylka came to watch me against Barrington in the regional championship game."

That game was a 2-0 loss to Barrington, which went on to finish third in Class 4A at the state finals, but Ruggles' performance drew the praise of longtime Barrington coach Perry Peterson, who said after the game, "Sydney Ruggles is an outstanding pitcher."

Tylka, who by NCAA rules can't comment on recruits until they actually sign their National Letter of Intent, was impressed enough with Ruggles to make her an offer after that Barrington game.

"After he made me the offer we visited the school and I fell in love with it," said Ruggles, the daughter of Dan and Jennifer Ruggles of Carpentersville.

Ruggles was the winning pitcher in all 21 of Dundee-Crown's victories this past season. She had a 1.96 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and struck out 264 batters in 199 innings. She also hit .343 with 7 doubles and 21 RBI.

At Loyola she will join a program that was 27-26 this past season and 9-17 in the Missouri Valley Conference. Tylka will be entering his fifth season as the Ramblers' head coach.

Emily Borg of Jacobs is also on the Loyola roster and will be entering her sophomore year. Former Barrington standout pitcher Keenan Dolezal will be a junior and Neuqua Valley grad Jamie O'Brien will be a senior infielder for the Ramblers.

Now done with her college choice Ruggles, who will study law enforcement at Loyola, is happy she can finish her summer season and go into her senior year at D-C without worrying if there's college coaches watching her.

"I just get to play softball now which is what I love to do," she said.