Jenny Behan Carmel Catholic
She verbally committed during the off-season to play Division I softball for James Madison University, and then Jenny B. continued to be great with a bat in her hands. "Jenny is a model of consistency in performance," coach Jason Raymond said of the sophomore third baseman and first-time All-East Suburban Catholic Conference selection. "She followed up a very strong freshman year with another one. She increased her power numbers across the board. She has proved that she can hit any type of pitching. She is a clutch performer that tends to step up with outstanding performances against the great teams." After hitting 8 home runs in an all-area campaign last season, Behan belted 10 homers, while hitting .438 and knocking in 41 runs. She had 46 hits and scored 37 runs. She also led the team in walks with 14. "She has great potential as a leader," Raymond said. "We are looking forward to Jenny taking a step forward in that area next year."
Kelsey Borders Grayslake North
No more batting orders with Borders. Which is sad for the Knights. Like her sister, former Knights slugger Carly, little sister will play softball at the University of Findlay. Kelsey clobbered pitches again this season, hitting .432 with 5 home runs and 33 RBI. The four-year all-Fox Valley Conference player pounded out 41 hits. She collected 12 doubles and 3 triples, as well, while showing off a powerful arm at third base. "She has helped to mold the toughness of the left side of the infield since her freshman year," coach Molly Tomlinson said. "Her ability to play third base and throw out runners with her strong arm has been phenomenal. She has been one of our best and most important clutch hitters and is extremely reliable at the plate." Borders even stole 9 bases in as many attempts. "She has been very consistent at third base," Tomlinson said, "and is also one of our smartest base runners."
Jordyn Bowen Grayslake North
If it was assumed she just sprayed the ball and let her legs manufacture hits, take note of her 2-home run game this spring. At 5 feet 5, power may not have been Bowen's game, but she did so many things well that she always powered the Knights. A four-year all-Fox Valley Conference pick who played her freshman year at Grayslake Central, Bowen batted .442. Her 42 hits included 7 doubles, 2 triples and those 2 long balls. She also stole 7 bases and scored 36 runs. "Being a triple threat -- her ability to bunt, slap and swing away -- has proved her to be one of the most successful hitters in the Fox Valley Conference," coach Molly Tomlinson said. "She is such a smart hitter and always seems to find a way to get on base time and again." The Northern Illinois University recruit sparkled at shortstop again, too. "Defensively, she has defended the left side of the infield with poise and perfection," Tomlinson said. "She keeps the defense thinking and is aggressive on the bases, which has helped make her extremely successful. She has played a phenomenal shortstop and has been a tremendous leader on our team."
Brittany Brown Grayslake Central
When she toed the pitching rubber late in the season, rest assured, it hurt. She might have winced, just a little. The junior finished the season with a broken toe and earned plenty of respect from her coach. "She is extremely tough," coach Abbey Tadelman said. The varsity's starting third baseman and part-time pitcher as a sophomore, Brown assumed the ace's role this season, and the Rams were usually competitive with her in the circle. For the second year in a row, she also hit the ball with authority. Her season numbers included a .330 batting average with 8 doubles, 1 home run and 19 RBI. She pitched 1671⁄3 innings, winning 12 games and striking out 91 batters. Said Tadelman: "She is very dedicated, hardworking and loves the game."
Katie Brown Lake Zurich
King of the hill? Well, how about calling the junior left fielder the "queen" of the hill? "She likes to say that she owns the hill (in left field at Lake Zurich)," coach Michaela Towne said with a laugh. Finally healthy after two years of nagging injuries, Brown replaced two-time all-area outfielder Kelly Neises atop the Bears' batting order and sparkled, in addition to providing dependable play in left field (30 putouts). "She was healthy the entire season and we got to really maximize of our use out of her," Towne said. Brown batted .417 (. 577 with runners in scoring position), as she pounded out 40 hits. She scored 26 runs and stole 16 bases. "She was the fuel that made our offense go," Towne said. "When she got on, more times than not, we were scoring in the first inning. People were bringing her around."
Jenn Claussen Vernon Hills
The Cougars counted few wins until a late-season hot streak saw them earn a berth in a Class 3A sectional final. What they always could count on was Claussen's effort. The senior pitcher batted .403 with her 11 extra-base hits including 3 home runs. One of her long balls was belted into the night sky at The Bandits' professional ballpark in Rosemont. She knocked in 18 runs, while also posting a .481 on-base percentage. A four-year varsity starter who inherited the ace's role this season from Megan Meline, the hard-throwing Claussen struck out 146 batters while walking only 30 in 110 innings. She posted a 2.35 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. "Jenn Claussen has just been a workhorse and so dependable and always ready to jump on that (pitching rubber) and give it everything she has," coach Steve Korney said. "She's a special kid. She's a winner." Claussen plans on attending Purdue University, where she will study engineering.
Amanda Elert Carmel Catholic
Elert at-bats put her coach on alert. "As a third base coach, I find myself backing up all the time about 20 feet down the line for fear of getting struck by one of her line drives," coach Jason Raymond said. "The ball absolutely jumps off her bat." The freshman catcher's stats would attest to how hard she smacks the ball. She slugged 10 home runs, including a pair of grand slams, drove in 44 runs and hit .412 (45 hits). She also scored 35 runs and walked 13 times. "It took all of one game for her to be plugged into the cleanup spot of the lineup," Raymond said. "She has been a staple there ever since. ... She provides plenty of protection for (fellow all-area teammates) Kathleen (Felicelli) and Jenny (Behan), allowing them to see better pitches, knowing that she is coming up behind them. She shows a tremendous amount of maturity for her age and has a great approach at the plate."
Lauren Fairweather Mundelein
Great, bad or fair weather. It didn't matter to Fairweather. Fairweather hit 'em fair. And far. A JV player last year, the junior exploded onto the varsity scene, belting 9 home runs. "(Last summer), she showed a lot of signs of hitting the ball very hard," coach Brett Wilhelm said. "I think she could have been a varsity player last year, but her confidence level wasn't the best. This year, I continued to work with her. I told her, 'Lauren, if you go up (to the plate) thinking you're going to do good things, good things are going to happen.' That's what she did this year." As the Mustangs' designated player, she posted a .348 batting average. Her 31 hits also included 7 doubles, and she also knocked in 39 runs. She put up those power numbers despite missing six games with an injury. "She's a really, really strong girl," Wilhelm said. "She's probably, pound for pound, our strongest girl."
Kathleen Felicelli Carmel Catholic
She ached, suffice it to say. But instead of moaning, the junior shortstop delivered pain to opposing softball teams. She jacked 10 homers, drove in 45 runs, scored 47 and batted .487 (team-best 58 hits). "Kathleen started off slowly due to a stress fracture from the basketball season and seemed to battle various other injuries throughout the season," coach Jason Raymond said. "She did not miss one game this season." A repeat all-area and All-East Suburban Catholic Conference selection, Felicelli struck out only 12 times. "Kathleen continues to grow as a player," Raymond said. "She has improved in each of the three years she has played." A three-sport star, she is being looked at by Loyola University, her coach said. "Statistically, all across the board, her improvements have been impressive," Raymond said. "But the best part of Kathleen's growth has been that as a junior she is really beginning to step up as a leader on the practice field, in the dugout and on the field."
Kaylee Grant Lake Zurich
Sorry, Texas. Lake Zurich didn't get you anything. What the Bears got from the southern state was a big-time transfer with exceptional skill and softball smarts. "As I said at the (team) banquet, 'Thank you, Texas. We will take her,' " coach Michaela Towne said with a laugh. "It was very clear at tryouts that she was mechanically very sound both behind the plate and hitting-wise." Grant, a sophomore who started at catcher, hit .425 with 14 doubles, 3 triples and 1 home run. She also had 19 RBI, 16 stolen bases and a .500 on-base percentage. Behind the plate, she made just 2 errors (156 total chances). "You forget that she's a sophomore," Towne said. "She's so mature. I know that our pitcher Olivia Schneider really appreciated her work behind the plate."
Kate Hohenstatt Lakes
The junior was in and out of the Eagles' lineup last season. This year, she was in all the time and making things happen both offensively and defensively. "She's come a long ways," coach Bill Hamill said of the center fielder. "She was a great leadoff hitter for us." A left-handed batter who can do more than slap, Hohenstatt batted .382 with her 42 hits including 4 doubles and 1 home run. She also scored 34 runs. "She has the ability to read defenses (when batting)," Hamill said. "She did a great job of setting up, whether it was slap, drag, bunt or swing away, and she had enough power to take the ball out of the park. She took a lot of pitches, which is something you need to do in that leadoff spot."
Kaytee Keefe Antioch
She led off. Then when her coach moved her two slots down to provide a spark, she led by example. "Kaytee did whatever we needed her to do," coach Anthony Rocco said of his senior first baseman/pitcher. "I knew she had real good plate discipline so I put her in the leadoff spot. It worked for the first third of the season. Then we started struggling to drive runs in after we'd get Keefe on, so we moved her to the (No.) 3 spot, and she just exploded with driving people in." Keefe, a three-year all-conference player who was also named all-area as a sophomore, batted a team-leading .472 with 12 doubles, 2 homers and 41 RBI. She didn't make an error in the field. Her bat prowess coupled with her pitching success (6-5 record, 3.36 ERA, 50 strikeouts in 561⁄3 innings) earned her team MVP honors. She filled in more than adequately when ace Katie Phillips missed several games due to a midseason injury. "She really stepped it up there," Rocco said. Keefe will continue her softball career at Rock Valley College. "She's just a great leader at the plate," Rocco said. "She lets our kids know what pitches (the opposing pitcher) is throwing, and she reads pitches very well."
Alex Kinnamon Wauconda
The Bulldogs got a taste of "Cinnamon" three years ago. It was sweet. Kinnamon -- or "Cinnamon" as she's called -- burst onto the varsity season as a freshman with a booming bases-loaded hit in the Bulldogs' regional-final win at Vernon Hills. She's been a cornerstone for the team ever since then. Bouncing back from what coach Tim Rennels called a stomach ailment that prevented her from playing her best ball last season, the senior catcher batted .400 with 3 homers and 29 RBI in helping the Bulldogs win their first sectional championship. She struck out only eight times, while her 36 hits also included 8 doubles and 2 triples. Her team-leading 10 walks helped explain her .525 on-base percentage. When she missed more than a week this season with a concussion, the Bulldogs slipped out of contention for the North Suburban Prairie Division crown. "The little nuances and leadership that Alex bring," Rennels said, "you can't match it. She was, by far, our leader. I can't say enough about her this year. She really picked it up." In the supersectional, Kinnamon picked two runners off third base and caught another trying to steal second. She will continue her softball career at Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Taylor Koenigs Stevenson
While the Patriots struggled last season, winning an uncharacteristically low 10 games, a freshman playing on JV was doing anything but struggling. "As I watched her last year, I believed she was the shortstop of the future," said coach Larry Friedrichs, who called up Koenings late in the season. Her potential makes him smile. "She's good," Friedrichs said. Koenigs' first full varsity season was spectacular. The sophomore shortstop produced a .426 batting average and .500 on-base percentage, belting 6 homers, 5 doubles and 3 triples. She also had 37 RBI, 36 runs scored, 14 walks and 4 stolen bases. "Taylor's got great speed, and she's got great game sense," Friedrichs said. "I think she did a nice job of settling in and feeling that she was ready for this."
Meghan Milewski Lakes
The gritty senior catcher who, according to coach Bill Hamill, would "run through a brick wall to get something done," wanted nothing to do with a courtesy runner. "She'd get upset sometimes because we'd use a courtesy runner for her," Hamill said. "I'd be like, 'I know you're a great base runner, but you do enough work for us behind the plate.' She's just the consummate competitor." Milewski is talented, too. A four-year varsity starter, three-year captain and perennial all-conference selection, she hit .431 (39 hits) with 7 doubles, 6 triples and 2 homers. She never committed a passed ball and threw out 97 percent of the runners who attempted to steal. "She never wanted to come out of the game," Hamill said. "She wanted to catch all games in tournaments, wanted to catch both games in doubleheaders. She took a beating behind home plate, and she never complained." With Milewski catching, her coach had few complaints. "The last two years, I didn't have to call a pitch," Hamill said. "I had enough confidence in her to call pitches and set up hitters."
Caitlyn Moran Grant
Opposing batters saw a constant when playing Grant: more and more of Moran. As far as coach Mike Dolezal was concerned, the more Moran the better. The junior threw nearly every inning for the Bulldogs, posting an 18-8 record and a 1.87 ERA, while striking out 241 batters in 180 innings. The right-hander also led Grant to the North Suburban Conference championship. "She just pitched her heart out all year," Dolezal said. "She never really got rocked. No one hit her hard all year, consistently." The varsity's No. 2 pitcher last season, Moran retired hitters with impeccable control and guile. "Her command of her pitches is incredible," Dolezal said. "She's not afraid to throw change-ups on 3-2, 2-1. She listens well and she's very coachable." Moran also served as the Bulldogs' leadoff hitter and batted .404 (40 hits) with 5 doubles and 3 triples. "What's underrated with her," Dolezal said, "is that she's a great hitter."
Haley Morelli Mundelein
Right field won't look right next year. No more Morelli. For four varsity seasons, she was the Mustangs' everyday right fielder. "She started first game to last game," coach Brett Wilhelm said. And on most days, the left-handed hitter smacked the ball hard. A first-time all-area selection, the senior put together her best season, helping the Mustangs win 25 games while batting .366 with 4 home runs and 25 RBI. She also hustled for 7 doubles and 2 triples, and drew 19 walks. If she wasn't getting hits, she was sometimes robbing opposing hitters of them. "I thought she was one of the better outfielders in the area," Wilhelm said. "She has a tremendous arm. ... She'd throw girls out at first base from right field." Morelli will play next year at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Tayler Oberman Libertyville
The Wildcats' "T.O." can catch and run. Their "T.O" goes about her business quietly but effectively. A repeat all-area selection, the speedy junior shortstop batted over .400 (. 404) for the second year in a row. Oberman was on base often (. 582 on-base percentage) and took advantage of it, swiping 26 bases. She socked 16 extra-base hits and knocked in 14 runs from the leadoff spot. "Once again, Tayler was the sparkplug at the top of our lineup," coach Elissa Wisniewski said. "Her speed and versatility are complete game changers for us when she gets on base. The energy and toughness she brings to the field set the tone for the rest of our lineup and the rest of the game."
Abby O'Connor Stevenson
Stevenson offers an advanced strength and conditioning physical education class. "Abby did that class this past year," coach Larry Friedrichs said. "She's a strong kid, and I think she just got stronger." The proof: the junior first baseman become the first player ever to hit 2 home runs over Stevenson's fence. She was the only softball player to take the class. "OK, it could be just a coincidence," Friedrichs said with a laugh. A smart kid who takes multiple AP classes, O'Connor wielded her bat as effectively as a pencil. She slugged 2 other home runs, while batting .383 with 38 RBI. A JV player last season, she also had a team-leading 11 doubles and 2 triples. "Abby hit well last year at the JV level," Friedrichs said. "I didn't have any question whether or not she could make that jump this year."
Katie Phillips Antioch
She followed an Antioch pitching legend (Olivia Duehr), and never flinched. Shoes too big to fill? For the last two years, the aspiring fashion merchandising major focused on developing her own style. She wore it well. A repeat all-area selection, the senior right-hander posted a 14-8 record with a 2.17 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 1611⁄3 innings. "She made her own set of shoes that someone else is going to have to step into," coach Anthony Rocco said. "It's nice when your pitcher can get you out of jams, and that's one thing Katie can do." Phillips can also hit. A three-year varsity player who started in center field as a sophomore, she posted a .349 batting average with 6 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homers and 31 RBI. She often helped her own cause at the plate. "She really took control (in the circle)," Rocco said. "Her (strikeout-to-walk) ratio was excellent."
Jamie Reiser Grant
During a late-season stretch, there wasn't a hotter hitter on the planet. How could there have been? The junior first baseman, a three-year varsity starter, hit safely in 14 consecutive at-bats. "That's when we were in the heart of our season, going against Antioch, Vernon Hills and Wauconda -- when we had to win all those games to keep things going," said coach Mike Dolezal, whose Bulldogs won the North Suburban Prairie Division. "She just stayed hot with the bat. It was pretty amazing to watch. You were just shaking your head after a while. You were like, 'It's got to end. And it doesn't.' " The 6-foot Reiser led the NSC champs with a .505 batting average. Her 47 hits included 15 doubles, 1 triple and 6 home runs. She also knocked in 38 runs. "She picked us up time after time with her hitting," Dolezal said. "She has gotten better every year. She's a winner to coach. She makes you a lot smarter with the things she does out there." Moran shined defensively, too. "She was great in the field," Dolezal said. "Having someone who's 6 foot at first base is really beneficial."
Kaylene Ressler Antioch
Kaylene: The Hit Machine. "Kaylene is the girl who probably works the most at hitting," coach Anthony Rocco said. "If she finishes a drill early, she figures out something extra to do to keep working on her swing." Ressler hit .432 with 7 home runs and 38 RBI and was at her best in the Sequoits' extra-inning, sectional-semifinal loss to Wauconda. She went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers, double and 3 RBI against Wauconda ace and fellow all-area choice Kayla Wedl. "That's a game most kids wish they had in their career," Rocco said. "And to do that against Wedl in the playoffs is just amazing." Ressler, a three-year all-conference third baseman, also had 5 doubles, 2 triples and 5 stolen bases. She will play next season at the College of Lake County. "It's going to be hard to replace her power," Rocco said. "She was just hardworking every day when it came to hitting. It was like her job. She worked on it, worked on it and worked on it."
Amy Ricci Warren
Little slugger. Ruthian numbers. There were few middle-of-the-order hitters who produced offensively as well as the senior first baseman. Ricci swatted 7 home runs and drove in 52 runs, while batting .377 for the Prairie Ridge sectional champs. "Amy is a very talented and dedicated player," coach Tina Meyer said. "Day in and day out, Amy gives her full effort and is always looking for ways to improve herself." A repeat all-area choice, Ricci also pounded 8 doubles, coaxed 14 walks and recorded more than 160 putouts. "Defensively, she does an awesome job," Meyer said. "She swings hard every time she is at the plate." The likable captain was a big presence, in short. "She also stepped up as a leader," Meyer said. "She brings energy, communication and teamwork to the field." Ricci will continue playing softball at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Maria Schroeder Lake Zurich
The dangerous hitter was doubly terrifying when Bears occupied bases. "She's just the epitome of consistency and the person you want up to bat or on defense fielding the ball when the game's on the line," coach Michaela Towne said of her three-year varsity starter and repeat all-area choice. "She just continued to produce this year." The junior third baseman committed to Bradley University during the off-season. She then hit .466 with 8 doubles, 10 triples and 5 home runs, while driving in 40 runs. Her batting average with runners in scoring position was an eye-popping .490. The all-around threat also scored 39 runs, stole 10 bases, struck out just three times and made just 3 errors. "Definitely our leader on the field," Towne said, "both offensively and defensively."
Megan Sowa Warren
During the Blue Devils' state tournament run, the senior center fielder decorated her face to look like an Indian warrior. Talk about fierce. Sowa, the Lake County captain of the Daily Herald All-Area team and three-year all-area pick, batted .513. She smacked 16 doubles, 7 triples and 4 home runs. After setting a school record with 65 hits last season, she pounded out 58 hits. A team captain, she is signed with Drake University. "Megan has accomplished a lot and I'm very proud of her and her work ethic over the last three years," coach Tina Meyer said. "She has stepped up as a vocal leader on the team and does what she can to keep her team full of energy."
Jana Wagner Warren
She pitched the Blue Devils to victory in last season's North Suburban Conference championship game and then ratcheted her game up another notch this season. While sharing time in the circle with fellow junior Jenny Carpenter, Wagner led the staff in wins (17), innings pitched (124), strikeouts (131) and ERA (1.41). It was her third season on varsity. "Every year Jana works hard on her pitching to find ways to improve herself," coach Tina Meyer said. "She has stepped up to be a dominating pitcher. She's very ambitious, wants to succeed and do everything she can (in the circle) to help her team win."
Kayla Wedl Wauconda
She made her varsity debut indoors, at Rosemont's domed ballpark, and pitched well in a season-opening loss to defending Class 3A state runner-up Marengo. It was a prelude of what was to come. The freshman pitched equally effectively outdoors, leading the Bulldogs to their first sectional championship thanks to a 2-hit shutout of Vernon Hills. The 5-foot-6 righty fired an array of pitches in posting a 16-11 record with 215 strikeouts (just 34 walks) and 1.75 ERA in 176 innings. "She throws them all -- with accuracy, velocity, placement," coach Tim Rennels said. "Those are the keys. It's so relieving to call a spot and have a spot hit." Wedl also led off in the Bulldogs' batting order and was a table setter. She hit .388 with 4 doubles, 5 triples and 1 home run. She also had 11 stolen bases to go along with a .514 on-base percentage. Whether standing at the plate or delivering pitches to it, she handled herself with the poise of a veteran player. "She's unflappable," Rennels said. "She just doesn't get rattled."
Maddie Zazas Mundelein
Back when Perry Wilhelm coached Mundelein softball, there were mentally tough, talented, hardworking players at several positions. In Zazas, Mustangs coach Brett Wilhelm has a girl who could have played on those old squads. "She reminds me a lot of the girls that played for my dad," Brett said. "They understand what it takes to be a great softball player." In her second season as the varsity's starting shortstop, Zazas got bumped from the No. 2 spot in the batting order to leadoff and "took off," her coach said. She hit .403 (50 hits) with 14 doubles, 2 home runs and 48 runs scored. She put together multiple double-digit-game hitting streaks. "She just wants to win," Wilhelm said. "She wants to be the best player out there. She's a great kid to coach." In the field, Zazas was always willing to sacrifice her body to make a play. "She does a great job of doing everything she can to keep everything in front of her," Wilhelm said. "She's phenomenal to watch defensively."
Player School Yr. Pos.
Jenny Behan Carmel Catholic So. 3B
Kelsey Borders Grayslake North Sr. 3B
Jordyn Bowen Grayslake North Sr. SS
Brittany Brown Grayslake Central Jr. P/3B
Katie Brown Lake Zurich Jr. LF
Jenn Claussen Vernon Hills Sr. P
Amanda Elert Carmel Catholic Fr. C
Lauren Fairweather Mundelein Jr. DP/OF
Kathleen Felicelli Carmel Catholic Jr. SS
Kaylee Grant Lake Zurich So. C
Kate Hohenstatt Lakes Jr. CF
Kaytee Keefe Antioch Sr. 1B/P
Alex Kinnamon Wauconda Sr. C
Taylor Koenigs Stevenson So. SS
Meghan Milewski Lakes Sr. C
Caitlyn Moran Grant Jr. P
Haley Morelli Mundelein Sr. RF
Tayler Oberman Libertyville Jr. SS
Abby O'Connor Stevenson Jr. 1B
Katie Phillips Antioch Sr. P
Jamie Reiser Grant Jr. 1B
Kaylene Ressler Antioch Sr. 3B
Amy Ricci Warren Sr. 1B
Maria Schroeder Lake Zurich Jr. 3B
*Megan Sowa Warren Sr. CF
Jana Wagner Warren Jr. P
Kayla Wedl Wauconda Fr. P
Maddie Zazas Mundelein So. SS
Nicole Bitter (Carmel Catholic Jr. P), Jamie Brew (Grayslake Central Jr. 1B), Jordyn Comitor (Vernon Hills Sr. RF), Jordan Cortesi (Stevenson Jr. 2B), Madi Dembinski (Libertyville So. 1B), Maria DeVito (Mundelein So. 2B/P), Bri Dreschler (Grant Jr. LF), Sam Feder (Stevenson Sr. P), Jill Fox (Warren Sr. SS), Andi Katz (Libertyville Jr. 3B/C), Erin Kennelly (Mundelein Sr. P/3B), Nikki Livengood (Grayslake North Jr. P), Montana Mang (Lakes Sr. IF/OF), Carlee Parsons (Lake Zurich Jr. 2B), Mallory Parsons (Lake Zurich Jr. 1B), Jessica Pedersen (Antioch So. SS), Chloe Peterson (Mundelein Sr. CF), Lexie Redmann (Wauconda Sr. LF/P), Cassidy Schaar (Lakes So. SS), Brooke Sefcik (Wauconda Fr. 3B), Hannah Skoog (Antioch So. CF), Hayley Steinberg (Round Lake So. 1B), Jamie Stevens (Libertyville Fr. 3B/OF), Kayla Uhwat (Grant Sr. C), Michelle Vasen (Warren Jr. RF/2B), Lexi Yonkovic (Stevenson Jr. LF)
Selections and player profiles by Joe Aguilar