Softball: Scouting Lake County
NORTHERN LAKE COUNTY CONFERENCE
Coach: Anthony Rocco (eighth season)
Last season: 26-6, 12-2 in NLCC
Returning players: Piper Foote (Sr. SS/OF), Abby Pyburn (Sr. 2B/SS/OF), Avery Malicki (Sr. 3B/OF/C), Megan Lawrence (Sr. OF), Ashley Hoerning (Sr. P/1B), Jeri Bonaguidi (Jr. P/2B), Mollie Wagner (Jr. 1B), Ashlyn Sundell (So. OF/1B), Hailey Webb (So. C/OF), Callie Tubbs (Sr. OF)
Newcomers: Rilee Schreiner (So. 1B/P), Faith Miller (So. 1B/3B/P/OF), Gabby Debevec (Fr. 2B/OF/UT), Tori Elizondo (So. C/2B/UT), Quinn Gillespie (So. 2B/SS)
Outlook: The Sequoits' surprising success a year ago shocked their coach. This season, it'll be stunning if the Sequoits don't have another successful season. Consider that they return a veteran group led by three college-bound players in shortstop Foote (Western Illinois University), left fielder Lawrence (UW-Stevens Point) and second baseman Pyburn (DePauw University). All three were all named ICA Class 3A All-State last year. Foote (.453 BA, 13 2B, 6 HR, 42 RBI) was named second team and All-NLCC First Team. Pyburn (.483 BA) and Lawrence (.420 BA, 5 HR, 40 RBI) were third-team all-state selections. They helped Antioch win 26 games, the NLCC championship and the program's sixth regional title in a row. "Last year was supposed to be a rebuild," Rocco said. "We're really confident with this group of kids. They're overly athletic, hardworking, and five of the six seniors have been playing varsity for 3-4 years. So they've been in all different situations, and a lot of them have battled adversity." The Sequoits also return speedy sophomore outfielder Sundell (.434 BA, 19 stolen bases, All-NLCC Second Team) and pitching. Bonaguidi (16-4, All-NLCC Second Team) emerged as the Sequoits' ace last year, and Hoerning (4-3) also returns. Newcomers Schreiner and Miller can pitch too. Webb got several starts behind the plate as a freshman last spring when Deighton Butenschoen (third team all-state) was hurt. Foote, Lawrence, Malicki and the speedy Tubbs are all four-year varsity players. Antioch started 0-4 last season, before winning 26 of its next 28 games. "We don't expect that (start) again this year," Rocco said. "This year, compared to last year, we're better in every facet of the game."
GRANTCoach: Chris Van Alstine (fourth season)
Last season: 21-11
Returning players: Calista Warmowski (Sr. SS), Megan Mitchell (Sr. 1B), Liz Schram (Sr. OF), Sarah Gallivan (Sr. C), Gabby Rogalevich (Sr. OF), Juliana Reynolds (Sr. P), Becca Fabry (So. C/3B), Bella Conticello (So. OF)
Newcomers: Abbey Ranalli (Sr. IF), Carly Burgeson (Sr. IF), Frances Williams (Jr. P), Miranda Rodriguez (Fr. IF), Kaylin Berwanger (Fr. IF)
Outlook: The Bulldogs graduated ICA Class 4A First Team All-State slugger Erin Bengston (Holy Cross, 33 HRs the last two years) but boast a pair of four-year varsity starters in shortstop Warmowski (Marian University commit) and first baseman Mitchell (All-NLCC Second Team). Warmowski, a three-time all-area selection and All-NLCC First Team choice last year, hit .410 last year and played stellar defense. "As always, our goal is to win the conference, but until someone takes that from Antioch they are the team to beat," Van Alstine said. "The focus this off-season has been getting ourselves physically and mentally ready for the start pf the season.This senior-led team has really become a close group and has welcomed in two very athletic freshmen in Rodriguez and Berwanger to help on the infield and the outfield." The pitching will be up to returner Reynolds and newcomer Williams. "I told both of them that we will go as far as they take us in the circle," Van Alstine said. "We have a very athletic infield led by Calista (Warmowski) and anchored at first by Megan (Mitchell)." Fabry and Burgeson look to help fill the hole left at third base by Bengston. Catcher Gallivan "loves to block everything thrown at her and is very quick behind the plate," Van Alstine said. Newcomer Ranalli rounds out the infield. In the outfield, Rogalevich, Schram (All-NLCC Third Team) and Conticello return. "I love how this team has come together and how hard they have worked during drills and in the cage, and they have done whatever the coaches have asked of them," Van Alstine said. "We are going to take one game at a time and see if we can string something special together this season."
GRAYSLAKE CENTRALCoach: Jason Schaal (sixth season)
Last season: 19-14, 9-4 in NLCC
Returning players: Elisa Koshy (Sr. C/1B), Grace Bradley (Sr. P/OF), Bridget Marshall (Sr. OF), Ashlynn Coleman (Sr. 3B), Corinne Heidloff (Jr. P/OF)
Newcomers: Kennedy Stoffel (Jr. UT), Rachel Smigielski (Fr. SS/OF), Madeline Peterson (So. P/1B), Avery Nims (Jr. P/3B), Taylor Pribyl (Jr. 1B), Megan Morrissey (So. UT), Ashley Reese (Jr. UT), Elizabeth Boos (Jr. C), Jenna Dooley (So. OF), Jessica Gurchak (Sr. UT), Hannah Newman (Sr. P)
Outlook: The Rams return 10 players back from last season's squad that fell 1 win shy of 20. They are led by the slugger Koshy (All-NLCC First Team) and pitcher Bradley (All-NLCC Second Team), who can also hit a ton. Koshy, an Indiana Wesleyan commit, holds the single-season and career school records for homers (27 total), RBI (90) and slugging percentage (.887). She hit .489 with 16 home runs last season in earning ICA Class 3A Second Team All-State honors. Both Koshy and Bradley (third team all-state) are three-year regulars. Bradley led the Rams with 46 hits last season (.451 batting average) and hit 9 homers to go along with 34 RBI. "We believe we will be able to put the ball in play and put some runs on the board," Schaal said. "A big key for us will be to tighten up defensively and make fewer errors than we did in 2018. Our pitchers do a good job. We we must help them defensively." The newcomers to watch include the junior Stoffel, sophomore Peterson and freshman Smigielski. "All the coaches have been very impressed with the effort to start the season," Schaal said. "We hope to compete and finish in the top half of the competitive NLCC. Our goal for this season, and every season, is to be the last spring sport team practicing here at school. Hopefully that correlates to a nice, long postseason run in late May and early June."
GRAYSLAKE NORTHCoach: Lea Corcoran (fourth season)
Last season: 19-9, 10-4 in NLCC
Returning players: Caitlin Barenbaum (Sr. IF/C), Grace Brown (Sr. 3B/1B), Alyssa Carr (Sr. OF), Evan Garrett (Sr. P/1B), Emily Mack (Sr. P/1B), Ashton Moore (Sr. P/1B), Scout Kram (Jr. P/OF/1B), Grace Moats (Jr. 2B/OF), Faith Standerski (Jr. SS/OF), Maddy Wais (Jr. OF), Nina Wittig (Jr. OF), Meghan Delahunty (So. C/2B/OF), Jess Pozezinski (So. OF)
Newcomers: Shannon Hill (So. C/3B)
Outlook: Led by Brown, the Daily Herald All-Area Captain and ICA Class 4A Second Team All-State selection after setting single-season team records for homers (18), RBI (55) and batting average (.611), the Knights return 13 players from last year's team that had its most wins since 2012. Joining Brown (Milwaukee School of Engineering commit) are fellow all-state (third team) and all-area honorees Standerski (Northern Iowa commit, .441 BA, 32 RBI, 42 RS) and Pozezinski (.463 BA, 27 RBI). All-NLCC Third Team and all-area honorable mention selection Carr (.368 BA, 26 RBI) returns for her senior year in the outfield as well. All four pitchers from last year's squad are also back with extensive varsity experience between Moore (third year), Garrett (third year), Mack (second year) and Kram (second year). Wittig, Moats and Wais all earned time in the outfield last season. Barenbaum split her time between second, catching and DP. Delahunty returns after drawing 21 walks, scoring 35 runs and stealing 10 bases as a freshman. The team returns essentially intact, losing only one player to graduation. "This group of girls works incredibly hard at practice, and we've set ourselves some lofty goals this year," Corcoran said. "We have six seniors (Barenbaum, Brown, Carr, Garrett, Mack, Moore) that are really setting the tone for their last high school season. They push us every day to be better and are really savoring the little moments of their last year."
LAKESCoach: Bill Hamill (11th season)
Last season: 20-17
Returning players: Camryn Jones (Sr. C), Ally Dietz (So. 1B/3B), Kelsey Ulrich (Sr. OF), Haley Ovaska (Jr. 3B), Annie Willis (So. P/OF), Emilie Cain (Jr. P/2B)
Newcomers: Grace Dunsworth (Fr. OF), Cierra Fleming (Fr. SS), Delaney Hanrahan (Sr. 2B), Mackenzie Anderson (Jr. OF/IF), Sydney Poglayen (Jr. OF), Grace Goodrich (Jr. 2B/C)
Outlook: The top of the Eagles' batting order has a different look after four varsity seasons of hard-hitting lefties Rachel Becker and Molly Dietz setting the table. Becker (Purdue) and Dietz (Belmont) were ICA Class 3A All-State second- and third-team selections, respectively, last season. The Eagles do return catcher Jones (All-NLCC First Team, all-state second team, .507 BA, 6 HR, 34 RBI), who is back for her fourth varsity campaign, as well as the versatile Ulrich (All-NLCC Second Team, all-state third team). Jones is committed to Appalachian State University, and Ulrich is committed to UW-Stout. With the graduation of two-year ace Kayla Foote, the sophomore Willis and junior Cain will get a chance in the circle. Outfielder Dunsworth and shortstop Fleming are freshmen to watch. "We are replacing some tough players to replace," Hamill said. "We are working hard and started the season with a win against Stevenson. Our strengths are the team works hard and the chemistry is great."
ROUND LAKECoach: Patrick DeDina (fifth season)
Last season: 8-18
Returning players: Emily Etherington (Sr. SS), Sydney Verastegui (Sr. 2B), Sam Nicoline (Sr. 1B/3B), Lilly Larson (Jr. C), Michele Lauritzen (So. P/1B), Lina Navarrete (Sr. OF) Alizza Lebron (Jr. OF), Gledasai Lebron (Sr. OF), Jessica Leitl (Jr. OF)
Newcomers: Kaitlyn DeNapoli (Fr. P/3B), Makayla Ledesma (So. OF), Carla Medina (So. OF), Jaylnn Ortiz (So. OF)
Outlook: The Panthers boast a veteran infield with Etherington (All-NLCC Third Team, .417 BA, 18 RBI), Verastegui (.385 BA) and Nicoline, who missed last season with an ACL injury. Lauritzen was the Panthers' No. 1 pitcher last season as a freshman. DeNapoli, who's a freshman this season, enters the year as the No. 2 pitcher. The duo will throw to Larson, who returns behind the plate. It's a veteran outfield with the lefty Navarrete anchoring in center. Nicoline, Etherington and Verastegui were all up on varsity as freshmen three years ago. "I think we're going to be OK when it all comes together," DeDina said. "I think it should be a good season."
WAUCONDACoach: Tim Orisek (second season)
Last season: 6-23
Returning players: Kayla Serio (Sr. P/SS), Sydney Rodgers (Sr. OF), Angelica Cho (Jr. P/IF/OF), Julia Fohlmeister (So. IF/C
Newcomers: Calli Janik (Fr. C/SS), Taylor Koehler (Fr. 1B/OF), Rachel Peat (Fr. P/OF), Zehra Hussain (Fr. OF/P), Alexis De La Roca (Fr. OF), Kaitlyn Jerard (Fr. 3B/1B)
Outlook: The Bulldogs won only six games last season but opened this year by beating Rolling Meadows with a lineup featuring four freshmen. One of them, De La Roca, homered. Serio, who's playing her fourth varsity season, earned the win. A two-time all-area selection and All-NLCC Second Team mention last year, Serio hit .500 last season and served as the ace of the staff for the second year in a row. The other returnees include center fielder Rodgers (All-NLCC Third Team, .342 BA, 29 runs), Cho (.315 BA) and Fohlmeister (.338 BA). "I feel that our strength this year will be from the depth of our lineup," Orisek said. "Many of our players can play multiple positions on the field and can give our lineup a different look from one game to the next. The chemistry that these players have developed during the off-season and over the first few weeks of practice has been great, and I feel that will be another strength of ours. As a group, we felt that we needed to work harder on defense this season to reduce the number of errors we have per game and minimize the likelihood of our opponents having a big inning. Our offense and pitching will keep us in games, but it will be our defense that will ultimately win games for us, and that is why it has been a priority for us to improve on that over the past few weeks of practices. ... I'm expecting many big things from our returning upperclassmen, but I also know that we have an extremely talented group of freshmen on our team that will make key contributions over the course of the season."
NORTH SUBURBAN CONFERENCE
LAKE ZURICHCoach: Kelly Hardbarger (first season)
Last season: 14-16
Returning players: Elizabeth Chialdikas (Jr. 3B/C), Stephanie Keefe (Sr. P), Megan Croke (Sr. 2B), Julia Zaucha (Sr. SS), Haley Gajewski (Sr. C/OF), Maura Ginn (So. P/IF), Nina Kolb (So. OF), Olivia Collins (Jr. OF), Natalie Jokerst (Jr. OF), Kennedy Williams (So. OF), Celia Cunion (Sr. OF/1B)
Newcomers: Savannah Welcing (Fr. 1B)
Outlook: Hardbarger, the former Kelly Cummings, is a former Daily Herald All-Area player for Prospect (Class of 2007) and Division-I player at the University at Buffalo in New York. A physical therapist by day and coach in the Northern Ice organization, she is the Bears' sixth head coach in the past 16 years. She inherits one of the best hitters in the county in the junior Chialdikas, who hit .575 with 5 homers and 33 RBI in her second varsity season. Chialdikas was named ICA Class 4A Second Team All-State. Chialdikas and shortstop Zaucha (.427 BA, 13 doubles, 43 runs) were all-conference selections last season, while the slap-hitting Croke (University of Dubuque commit), Keefe and Gajewski (.311 BA, 4 HR, 26 RBI) were all-NSC honorable mention. Keefe (.400 BA, 4 HR, 39 RBI), who's playing her fourth varsity season, returns to anchor the pitching staff. The Marian University commit won 10 games last season and struck out 101 batters in 124 innings. She'll throw again to Gajewski. "Haley has been with Stephanie since they were like 10 years old," Hardbarger said. The Bears have five seniors in Keefe, Gajewski, Croke, Zaucha and Cunion. "I think we're going to have a great season," Hardbarger said. "We have a great group of girls, a good set of athletes. We're breaking it down to the fundamentals. That's what's going to win us games. (The players) are telling me this is their year. We have great leadership."
LIBERTYVILLECoach: Elissa Wisniewski (eighth season)
Last season: 25-8
Returning players: Maggie Evers (Sr. 3B), Aliya Haddon (Sr. OF/C), Amanda Page (Sr. P), Julia Zinkewich (Sr. OF), Sarah Bennett (Jr. IF), Lexi Hill (Jr. IF/OF), Katie Jahncke (So. OF/IF)
Newcomers: Katie Fesel (Sr.), Ella Zombolo (Jr.), Charlotte Lynch (So.), Emma Fields (So.)
Outlook: The Wildcats won another 25 games last season after posting 29 victories in both 2016 and 2017. They figure to win often again this spring, led by returning all-area players Evers (.355 BA, 10 HR, 37 RBI) and Haddon (.398 BA, 30 RBI. 12 SB). Page returns in the circle after winning 21 games and making the all-conference team in her first season as the team's ace. Bennett (all-NSC honorable mention) returns in the infield. The Wildcats graduated only two players -- ICA Class 4A Third Team All-State catcher Sarah Hoyer and center fielder Emily Hilldale. Their 12-player roster last season featured eight varsity rookies. "We are a pretty new team this season with half newcomers to the level and five returning starters," Wisniewski said. "We will continue to look to our returners as leaders to help teach our newcomers and look forward to seeing the newcomers evolve as they gain experience."
MUNDELEINCoach: Heather Ryan (second season)
Last season: 17-11
Returning players: Molly Podraza (Sr. CF), Allison Lambert (Sr. 2B), Danielle Lambert (Sr. LF), Kira Buckner (Jr. P/3B), Kendall Klatt (Jr. C), Elise Bernett (Jr. RF), Mia Arnoux (Jr. RF), Cheyenne Pellettiere (So. SS)
Newcomers: Maddy Neuwald (Sr. OF), Sam Nickl (Jr. OF), Emma Umbdenstock (So. IF), Emma Hallin (So. P), Katie Cabrera (So. IF), Tess MacKay (So. IF/OF)
Outlook: The Mustangs graduated ace and four-year varsity starter Bre Adams (North Central College) along with fellow pitcher Annie Morelli (UW-Whitewater), paving the way for the hard-hitting Buckner to take over in the circle. Playing primarily third base in her second varsity season as a sophomore last season, Buckner batted .474 with 7 homers and 34 RBI. An all-area player, she also pitched 25⅓ innings (2.21 ERA). Also back are Allison Lambert (all-NSC honorable mention) and Danielle Lambert and power-hitting catcher Klatt. Ryan says her Mustangs are "full of young, new faces, balanced by quality veteran experience determined to get Mundelein softball back to the top of the conference and far into the postseason." Ryan adds that Buckner has added more speed and movement to her pitching skill set, while the senior Podraza brings speed and quickness to the top of the lineup and will provide a consistent and reliable defensive presence in the outfield. "Look for the Mustangs to bring intensity and determination to the field this spring," Ryan said.
STEVENSONCoach: Heather Ruchim (second season)
Last season: 8-16
Returning players: Riley Housinger (Sr. P), Taylor Edelheit (Sr. P), Haley Barnes (So. P/SS), Maggie Trotter (Jr. 1B), Mara Lippman (Jr. C), Miyah Brooks (Sr. UT), Maggie O'Brien (Sr. 3B/UT), Anna Fossier (Sr. MIF/UT)
Newcomers: Reagan Koenigs (Fr. P/3B), Emily Freedman (So. MIF/UT), Lexi Gitler (Fr. OF), Elle Ruchim (Fr. OF), Allison Wade (Fr. C/OF)
Outlook: The Patriots' 8 wins last season marked their fewest since they won the same about of games in 1992. Former Stevenson star Ruchim became the Patriots' fourth coach in five years last season and brings back a group that includes all-conference third baseman O'Brien (UW-Stout commit). Sophomore shortstop/pitcher Barnes and junior first baseman Trotter were named all-conference honorable mention last year. Trotter has been a varsity player since her freshman season. "This season we have a great group of girls on the field and off," Ruchim said. "We have a mix of young talent and strong, experienced upperclassmen to guide them. This is a special group of athletes that take pride in being a part of the team. They practice with a purpose and have really turned up the intensity this year." Seniors Fossier and Housinger are four-year varsity players. "Our five seniors want their last season in the green and gold to be a memorable one," Ruchim said. "Their actions thus far make me very optimistic for this season. We have a lot of girls that can play multiple defensive positions for us and more depth on the mound. All of which makes my job a whole lot easier."
WARRENCoach: Jenna Charbonneau (fifth season)
Last season: 28-3
Returning players: Caitlyn Britton (Sr. P), Kayla Nommensen (Sr. 1B), Ashlyn Kitter (Sr. CF), Carissa Topolinski (Jr. C/3B), Kayla Hopkins (Jr. OF), Trenise Powe (Jr. UT), Anna Kraemer (Sr. UT), Erika Jimenez Sr. 3B)
Newcomers: Kassie Jimenez (So. SS/P), Brooke Mangler (So. SS/2B), Kelsey Schmeling (Jr. UT), Emily Craig (So. UT)
Outlook: There are few players in the area who swing the bat better than Britton, who's launched 31 home runs in the last two seasons and last year was named ICA Second Team All-State. The Central Michigan commit and four-year varsity player serves as the Blue Devils' ace for the third year in a row. Center fielder Kitter (Roosevelt commit, third team all-state), lefty first baseman Nommensen (Washington U. commit) and third baseman/catcher Topolinski (all-NSC) also return for the defending NSC champs. Erika Jimenez, a good hitter, is back after not playing last season. "We have quite a few returning powerhouses that we are happy to have back and some really talented newcomers this year," Charbonneau said. "This group of girls has worked extremely hard in the off-season, and I think that will really show this spring. We are looking forward to another successful year."
CENTRAL SUBURBAN LEAGUE NORTH DIVISION
VERNON HILLSCoach: Jan Pauly (fifth season)
Last season: 18-19, 9-1 in CSL North
Returning players: Delaney Bowen (Sr. SS), Elisa Handler (Jr. C), Quin Yuter (Jr. CF), Mackenzie Mahler (Sr. 1B/OF), Madison Johnson (Jr. P), Brooke Pieper (Jr. P/OF), Rachel Wright (Sr. 1B/3B)
Newcomers: Caeli Kinsella (Jr. 3B/OF), Ashley Budziak (Sr. UT), Lauren Ellis (Sr. IF/C), Jordyn Smith (So. UT), Jess Lea (Jr. IF), Rebecca Kieft (Jr. IF/OF), Kayla Lorenz (Fr. P)
Outlook: Purdue-bound shortstop and three-time all-area selection Bowen already owns all of the Cougars' batting records. She is a co-captain this season and "brings energy and enthusiasm to our dugout everyday," Pauly said. The junior Handler, another co-captain, returns for her third season behind the plate (Jr.), and Pauly calls her a "powerful presence" who "sets the example and tone of our team culture." The junior Yuter anchors the outfield in center field again. Mahler is playing her fourth season on varsity as well. Junior pitcher Johnson has been up since her freshman year. Junior veteran Pieper, a lefty, also pitches. Corner infielder Wright also returns. The Cougars advanced to the Class 3A supersectionals last season. "Our veteran lineup will need to keep the hot bats and defense that propelled us to success in 2018," Pauly said. "Pitching depth should provide flexibility and different looks in the circle to keep opponents off balance. ... Our leadership and experience should prove valuable. Graduations will provide opportunities for a couple of players to step up and fill those roles. With a deep and talented group, competition at all positions should fill those gaps and keep the team pushing forward to keep the momentum over the past couple years going."
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE
CARMELCoach: Shane Schueneman (fourth season)
Last season: 20-15, 8-6 in ESCC
Returning players: Jordan Swiatkowski (Sr. C), Sydney Schuda (Sr. P/1B), Marla Walinski (Sr. SS/P), Emy Krysa (Sr. LF), McKenna Pett (Sr. CF), Hailie Swiatkowski (So. 3B/SS), Kyla Rapplean (So. 2B), Allison Novak (Jr. OF), Allison Schiltz (So. OF)
Newcomers: Brooke Braden (Fr. 1B/SS), Caiti Shrofe (Jr. OF)
Outlook: The Corsairs have won an even 20 games in each of the last two years and this season seek to make it five straight campaigns of 20 or more victories. They appear in good shape with returning all-ESCC players Schuda, Jordan Swiatkowski (Wartburg College commit) and Walinski. Those three along with Krysa (York College commit) and Pett boast either two or three seasons of varsity experience coming into this year. "Our strength will be in our pitching, with Syd and Marla handling those duties for the third straight year," Schueneman said. "Those two along with Jordan doing the catching and being a four-year starter give us plenty of leadership and experience. Swiatkowski (7 HR, 32 RBI last season) is a two-time all-conference selection. Schuda had a breakout campaign in the circle last year, striking out 159 batters in 140⅓ innings. "We will have some growing pains early at times," Schueneman said. "But the overall outlook I feel with all of our returners and experience on the varsity level should give very good results as the season progresses."