BOLINGBROOK — Most if not all softball coaches in the area would love nothing more than to wave goodbye to the lingering winter weather and step outside for practice.
Bolingbrook coach Jean Ryan-Moak is part of that group, though the weather isn't affecting her team as severely as it might be for others.
After all, the Raiders return two all-conference outfielders in Dani Knaak and Nikki Wood. Fieldhouse practices don't work so well for flyballs, but they can be useful or infielders, which is where Bolingbrook is turning to newcomers.
"Our middle infielders are new, and our third baseman is too," Ryan-Moak said. "I have to see what we have with a freshman catcher and new shortstop. I'm more concerned with the infield than the outfield."
The lone returning infielder is Jen Jacobson, who arrived to the varsity team midway through the 2012 season. Shortstop and third base are crucial defensive positions, but perhaps most important is making sure freshman backstop Lizzy Zielinski gets a grip on a pitching staff that could go three deep with Megan Lotarski, Jessica Kobelt and Aly DeLuca.
"The challenge is she has to catch three different pitchers that are not alike," Ryan-Moak said. "They like different pitches in different situations, so not only is she a freshman but she has to build those relationships. It's nice to be inside, though, because pitchers and catchers get a lot of the work and they get a chance to know each other."
The pitching staff could be an area of strength for the Raiders. Lotarski, who started as a freshman last spring, is the favorite to lead the way, but Kobelt, who pitched extensively last year, and DeLuca, who threw a no-hitter on the lower levels last year, add the luxury of going with the hot hand.
"If a pitcher is throwing aces, if somebody is hot, we'll leave them in," Ryan-Moak said. "It's nice to have the opportunity to use three of them. Early in the season we want to get everyone in there, but when we get to the meat of the schedule we'll look at who we're playing and who is on."
Knaak, Wood, Gail Patsch and Amanda Cooper are the only seniors on the team and will be the de facto veteran leaders with the players voting for captains. Knaak and Wood in particular are familiar with the expectations and goals, particularly as they pertain to the loaded SouthWest Suburban Blue conference.
"We were .500 in conference last year and we've talked about maintaining that or going over that," Ryan-Moak said. "We've talked about what steps we have to take to achieve going over .500. But no matter who we're playing, we want to win by doing things correctly and executing well."
Meet the Raiders
Coach: Jean Ryan-Moak
2012 record: 20-15 (7-7 SouthWest Suburban Blue)
Jen Jacobson so. 1B
Dani Knaak sr. CF
Jessica Kobelt jr. P
Megan Lotarski so. P
Nikki Wood sr. LF
Lizzy Zielinski fr. C
First game: 4:30 p.m. Wednesday vs. Plainfield Central