Softball preview: St. Francis looks to carry momentum over from 2012 season

Wheaton Academy
Coach: Paul Gagliano
2012 record: 10-19

Top players:
Marissa Gagliano jr. SS
Sara McClain jr. CF
Jessica Bosse so. C
Kelsey Ridderhoff sr. 2B
Michelle Ridderhoff jr. P
Gina Graff jr. 3B
Meghan Herring so. 1B

What to watch: Paul Gagliano begins his first year with Wheaton Academy after coaching within the Wasco Diamonds travel program and in Florida before that. The goal is to develop the Warriors' program, and the team has the pieces in place to begin that process this spring.
Despite having only one senior on the 18-player roster, the team does bring back seven starters. That group is spearheaded by Gagliano's daughter, Marissa, who enters her third year on the varsity after hitting .535 with 39 stolen bases in 2012.
Senior Kelsey Ridderhoff is at second base, junior Gina Graff will play third and sophomore Meghan Herring is at first. Junior Sara McClain will patrol center field while the battery of junior pitcher Michelle Ridderhoff and sophomore catcher Jessica Bosse also returns.
"We have a great group of young athletes who are excited about developing their game," Gagliano said. "We are still a very young team. We are a fast team with not a lot of power. And we just don't have a lot of experience; Marissa is the only one with travel experience."
Ridderhoff is an accurate pitcher who hits her spots, and the coach expects to have a solid defense. Offensively, with four slappers in the line-up, the Warriors will have to do the little things to plate runs.

St. Francis
Coach: Ralph Remus
2012 record: 29-4

Top players:
Alyssa Fernandez sr. SS
Aly Germanos sr. 2B
Lauren Rzeszutko sr. CF
Maggie Remus jr. P
Ali Dittrich so. 1B
Carly Pasquale so. RF

What to watch: Last year was quite possibly their best season in program history, and the Spartans have the talent to put together an encore.
Falling just one victory short of 30 wins in 2012, St. Francis returns six starters to the mix, including its up-the-middle duo in shortstop Alyssa Fernandez and second baseman Aly Germanos. First baseman Ali Dittrich is also back in the infield.
Maggie Remus will again handle the bulk of the pitching duties after going 25-2 as a sophomore while Lauren Rzeszutko and Carly Pasquale return in the outfield.
"We should be solid with a good defense," said coach Ralph Remus. "I am anxious to see how the offense does. We will miss Bri Pasquale and Blaine Carragher from last year. They were four-year starters and hard to replace."
The Spartans, who lost to eventual Class 3A state champion Glenbard South in a sectional final, will look to defend their Suburban Christian Conference crown. The squad went 13-1 in the league last spring.