Players to watch: Savannah Soppet, Sr., 3B/P; Briana Bowler, Sr., 2B; Sarah Crews, Jr., 3B/SP.
Outlook: Beecher’s quest for an 11th-straight River Valley Conference championship and a deeper run in the Class 2A postseason didn’t lose steam after last season’s regional loss to Bishop McNamara. The Ladycats return Soppet, last year’s Times Player of the Year, as well as Bowler and Crews, who should balance coach Kevin Hayhurst’s club both offensively and defensively. But aside from the trio of standouts, Hayhurst believes a deep roster will be more than enough to compliment his experienced starters this season.
Quote: "This team is deep. It isn’t just going to be a few players carrying this team. We have a lot of talented kids who are capable of making an impact at any time for us. I’m really excited to see them get out on the field and play.” – Hayhurst
BLOOM TOWNSHIP (19-17)
Players to watch: Geena Locicero, Sr., 1B; Jenna Amazzalorso Sr., LF; Morgan Zimmerman, Jr., C.
Outlook: Bloom might be one of the numerically smaller teams in the area this spring (12 girls), but also one of the more experienced as it returns eight seniors from last season’s squad. Among those will be the power hitting Locicero, and Amazzalorso, who set the school record with a batting average over .600 in 2012. Blazing Trojans coach Carrie Twietmeyer (sixth season) is hopeful that the abundance of veterans in her lineup will help her team take the next step in 2013.
Quote: “We have a lot of power, a lot of experience, and a lot of leadership. We should be pretty good on both offense and defense, so as long as our pitching is consistent, I think we’re going to be in great shape.” – Twietmeyer
Players to watch: Melanie Lambert, Sr., 1B/3B; Liz Frassinone, Sr., SP/3B; Sarah Rizzo, Jr., SP/2B; Jasmine Frenzel Jr. SP/1B; Abby King, So., C/SS.
Outlook: The Warriors will have an interesting element this season as a stellar group of veterans could be nicely complemented by a youth movement led by King (.570 average with 19 doubles, 24 stolen bases, 57 runs scored and 52 RBI in 2012). Crete-Monee will field three freshman starters who look to add momentum to the Warriors’ quest for a Southland Athletic Conference title.
Quote: “We’ve got the kids to win, now we just need to get out there and show people that we can get past regionals and make some noise. We’re ready to get outside and play.” – coach Sue Giannantonio
Players to watch: Kaitlyn Shereyk, Sr., IF; Angela Roberts, Sr., P/IF.
Outlook: Coach Katie Rice has two good seniors in Shereyk and Roberts. The Vikings should be pretty successful again.
ILLIANA CHRISTIAN (13-21)
Players to watch: Samantha Oppenhuis, Sr., 3B; Alexia Van Beek, Sr., SP/1B, Kat Witting, Jr., 2B, Brooke Van Der Aa, Fr., SP.
Outlook: After a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in its own Class 2A regional title match to Chicago Christian in 2012, eighth-year Vikings coach Mike Oppenhuis believes the result will be different this season. Returning starters Van Beek and Samantha Oppenhuis (the coach’s daughter) should help to stabilize the Illiana Christian offense, while Mike Oppenhuis believes that the freshman Van Der Aa could be a dark horse on the mound.
Quote: “I think that as long as we stay healthy, we’re going to be OK. We can expect to finish a little better than .500, and I totally expect us to win a regional this year.” – Mike Oppenhuis
ILLINOIS LUTHERAN (11-16)
Players to watch: Caroline Kuether, Jr., OF; Janelle Heyn, So.; SP/C, Amanda Buzan, So., 1B.
Outlook: Seventh-year Chargers coach Jeff Uhlenbrauck has quickly learned how much difference a year can make. Aside from graduating standout pitchers Tori Schrementi and Niya Marino, Uhlenbrauck saw his team take another hit when would-be junior pitchers Madisen Litton and Angela Schrementi chose not to come out this spring. This development has left Illinois Lutheran with an 11-player team made up of eight underclassmen (six freshman) and just three returning starters. Nonetheless, Uhlenbrauck is hopeful that his young team can grow as a unit this season.
Quote: “We’re a very different team this year than we were last year. We know what we’re up against, and these girls know that it won’t be easy. It’s a rebuilding year for us, but these girls have great chemistry, so it’s going to be interesting.” – Uhlenbrauck
MARIAN CATHOLIC (24-12)
Players to watch: Becca Stanton, Sr., C/1B; Alex Nickel, Sr., SS; Megan Henson, Fr., C/1B; Susan Baranski, Fr., OF; Madison Capers, Fr., 2B
Outlook: Now in her 13th season as Spartans coach, Kerri Evans couldn’t ask for a better core to lead her young team. Stanton, coming off a season in which she set Marian Catholic’s single-season and career marks for home runs (eight in 2012, 22 overall) will help provide some needed pop with fellow senior Nickel (Marian’s single-season batting average record holder, .558, to go with five homers and 38 RBIs last spring). Evans is confident their presence will provide a healthy dose of leadership to a team featuring three freshman starters.
Quote: “I’m pretty happy with what I see so far because there is no divide here despite the difference in class. The girls work hard together, and a positive side of the mix of veterans and youth is that there is a good balance between power and speed on offense.” – Evans
SETON ACADEMY (15-5)
Players to watch: Tiffany Ellis, Sr., SS/P; Awrian Rogers, Sr., 1B/3B; Lawanda Thomas, So., P/3B; Timia Williams, So., P/3B.
Outlook: After bringing back just one starter in 2012 (Ellis), the Sting will have the luxury of eight returnees this spring, and third-year coach Keith Holmes is understandably optimistic. Ellis is expected to anchor the pitching staff along with Thomas, and Holmes is hopeful the Seton lineup can generate offense to support the duo.
Quote: “With the experience we have returning this season, I think that’s going to help us take some strides forward. And I think we’re going to be a very fundamentally sound team.” – Holmes
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES (13-12)
Players to watch: Kylee Carrasco, Jr., 1B; Tasia Harris, Jr., P/SS; Abby Castenada, Jr., SS; Jensen Hunt, Jr., SP/CF; Stephanie Galan, Jr., SP.
Outlook: Despite having only two seniors on his ball club this season, Pioneers coach Juan Carrasco carries an experienced team with nine returning starters from 2012. A tough second-round loss to Grant Park in the Class 1A Grant Park Regional last spring hasn’t deterred St. Francis de Sales, as Carrasco believes his team has improved across the board and is prepared to make a deeper postseason run. A bountiful bench also could play a large role in the Pioneers’ success.
Quote: “Our defense is better, our hitting is better, our base running is better … I’m really excited about this team. And when you have a bench full of players that can come out and start any day and contribute, you have to feel good about your situation.” – Carrasco
T.F. NORTH (3-24)
Players to watch: Sara Daw, Sr., SP; Adilia Maldanado, Sr., P/3B/LF; Leslie Owens, Sr., 1B; Alexis King, Sr., C.
Outlook: The Meteors will have no shortage of experience in 2013; now they need some continuity. Highland grad Kara Zentz takes the reins this year, becoming the third T.F. North coach in three seasons. But despite the lack of consistency at the head coaching position, Zentz says her team is primed to take a massive step up from last season’s rough showing. Behind the pitching arm of the talented Daw (one of seven seniors), Zentz is confident the Rebels will have enough on offense to support the standout hurler and post a .500 record while making waves in the Southwest Suburban Conference.
Quote: “We have the potential, but we just need to put it all together. As long as we keep working together as a team and keep our attitudes positive, we can be successful this spring.” – Zentz
T.F. SOUTH (12-20)
Players to watch: Daviea Cowans, Sr., 3B; Brianna Heintz, Jr., 2B; Ashtyn Kapovich, Jr., P/SS; Cori Reynolds, Jr., C; Devin Pieper, Fr., SP.
Outlook: Behind the arm of the freshman Pieper and the returning Cowans (sidelined all of 2012 with a shoulder injury), the Rebels are hoping to right the ship this spring. Cowans, who led T.F. South in singles and home runs (three) before taking a line drive off of her right shoulder in the 10th game of the season, should provide some power to the lineup. Second-year coach Jamie Arundel is hopeful that with five starters returning from last season’s squad as well, the pieces are in place to find better success in 2013.
Quote: “We have a lot of consistent hitters on this team … girls who are going to get on base. So when we get hitters on, if we can move them over just as successfully, I think we’re going to be able to back up our pitchers quite nicely for some wins.” – Arundel
Players to watch: Amber Green, Sr., OF; Mynita Smith, Sr., OF; Kierra Williams, Jr., SP/2B; DeAnna Massey, So., SP/2B.
Outlook: Wildcats coach Jason Hardy is hopeful his team can break the .500 mark this season, and believes speed and power hitting could be the key. Green and Smith, both seniors, should carry the offensive load for Thornton this season, while Hardy said the pitching of Williams and Massey could go a long way for his club. Hardy is also stressing that his girls find a way to get on base this season, as he believes the Wildcats’ best strength may be their presence on the base paths.
Quote: “We’re fast and strong; we’ll be stealing bases, playing small ball, laying down squeeze bunts, closing the gaps in the outfield on defense and using our athleticism to our advantage.” – Hardy
Players to watch: Crystal Nwaokocha, Sr., SP/IF; Marissa Villanueva, Sr., C/1B; Jordan Garner, Jr., P/ Utility; Hannah McPherson, So., SP/Utility.
Outlook: After a down year in 2012, the Thunderbirds got a huge boost with the return of coaching greats Mark Anderson (former Bloom Twp. head coach) and former head coach Gary Lagesse. With over 50 years of combined experience between them, the two coaches are hoping a heavy dose of fundamentals and youth can propel Thornwood forward this spring. Anderson is optimistic Nwaokocha and McPherson can provide stable pitching while his young team develops offensively.
Quote: “We’ve got a good nucleus of kids; it’s just a matter of them gaining confidence and us finding where they’re all going to fit as a unit.” – Anderson
— Compiled by Joe Alberico