WEST CHICAGO — With the graduation of talented players the past couple of years, one might think West Chicago is entering a rebuilding season.
But don't count out the Wildcats just yet.
Coming off a 24-win campaign in 2012, a younger West Chicago squad, which will feature four sophomores, has hopes of repeating that success this spring.
"We will be younger but I think we will be better than people might think," said West Chicago coach Kim Wallner. "We've lost quite a bit the last two years. Jen Konchar and Mary Connolly (in 2011) and then last year we had seven seniors and all of them played.
"So we might have some growing pains. But I don't want to say we are rebuilding. The sophomores are talented, they just need some understanding of the intensity and pressure of the varsity game and the talent we will play against on a daily basis."
The Wildcats do return a solid core, headlined by seniors Amanda Gosbeth and Morgan Dastych. Also back are classmates Arielle McComb, Bri Hofman and Becky Cabral along with sophomore Tatiana Rich.
Offensively, the squad features four slap-hitters.
"We will have a little different style," the coach said. "We've got some speed so we will try to take the extra base and put the ball down and make teams play defense."
The pitching duties will be split between a pair of sophomores: Amy Goldsmith, who saw about 20 innings of work last year and left-hander Jenna Foreman, who will be making her varsity debut.
"We've been working a lot with their change-ups," Wallner said. "Both have some pitches that move. I will try to use both. With a righty and a lefty, I might try to use them both in the same game."
Coming off a 10-4 mark in the DuPage Valley Conference in 2012, the Wildcats will make one final run in the DVC before moving to the Upstate Eight Conference. To equal or better last year's third-place finish, West Chicago will need its young players to grow up fast and its veterans to show the way.
"We are going to have to rely on some of the older players to step up and be leaders and help me bring along the young kids," Wallner said. "We will have to work some kinks out but they are excited. That's the fun part about having a young team, they are exuberant."
Meet the Wildcats
Coach: Kim Wallner
2012 record: 24-13 (10-4 in DVC)
Amanda Gosbeth sr. C/IF
Morgan Dastych sr. 2B
Arielle McComb sr. OF
Tatiana Rich so. C/IF
Bri Hofman sr. IF/OF
Becky Cabral sr. 1B
First game: 4:30 p.m. Thursday at home vs. Burlington Central
Batting average last season for Amanda Gosbeth, who scored 28 runs and totaled 26 RBIs