LISLE — Benet head coach Jerry Schilf offered an observation that should give most opponents a little bit of pause.
"Our fifth-best hitter is probably better than the best hitter on 90 percent of of the teams we play," Schilf said.
That's not just a case of bluster and bravado. Among a slew of returners, the Redwings' fifth-best batter in terms of average is Stephanie Abello, who hit .415 with 53 RBIs, 13 home runs and 10 other extra-base hits. In short, Benet is loaded as it looks to defend its East Suburban Catholic Conference title and recapture the magic that led to a third-place state trophy in 2011.
"We were a powerhouse offensively last year and we should be again this year," Schilf said.
Maeve McGuire was named ESCC Player of the Year last season (Schilf was Coach of the Year), and the University of Georgia recruit leads a talented and potent offense. McGuire batted .528 with 69 runs and 48 RBIs last spring, and in addition to Abello, Benet returns Marissa Panko (.587, 50 runs, 35 RBIs), Julianne Rurka (.555, 47 runs, 52 RBIs) and Emily York (.459, 21 runs). Not only do they return big bats, but they also bring back solid defense.
"I think we'll be very strong offensively and defensively," Schilf said.
Molly Moran went 31-5 in the pitcher's circle last year and Schilf said she has only improved. York could also see some innings as a pitcher.
The team set the school record for wins last year, and York also set a school record with 63 RBIs, but the Redwings came up short with a 1-0 loss to Neuqua Valley in the regional title game. It was a loss the stung last spring but could serve them well this season.
"I think it's a plus that we lost in the regional finals," Schilf said. "If you look, we had five losses and some of those were really bad losses. We got beat by Carmel by 10 runs. I think the kids understand the expectations are high from everybody, not just them, and we can't take any opponent lightly. I think they're going to be ready to go."
Meet the Redwings
Coach: Jerry Schilf
2012 record: 32-5 (16-2 East Suburban Catholic Conference)
Stephanie Abello so. C
Abbie Gerth sr. OF
Maeve McGuire sr. CF
Ali Michalik sr. 2B
Molly Moran jr. P
Marissa Panko jr. SS
Julianne Rurka jr. 3B
Emily York so. 1B
Next game: 4:30 p.m. Thursday vs. Glenbard West