Downers North's Elaine Heflin heads All-Area Softball South Team

Trojans' dominant pitcher humbles opponents, remains humble

Published: Thursday, June 13, 2013 10:45 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, June 13, 2013 10:52 a.m. CDT
Caption
Elaine Heflin delivers a pitch June 1 during Downers Grove North's sectional championship game. Steve Bittinger for Shaw Media

DOWNERS GROVE - Elaine Heflin sure showed those travel coaches wrong.

Two travel coaches, to be precise.

When she was a younger softball player, two different coaches in two different travel softball programs told her she had no future as a pitcher.

"It was definitely devastating to hear, but they pushed me to where I am today," the recent Downers Grove North graduate said. "I wanted to prove those people wrong."

She did that in a big way. A four-year varsity player for the Trojans, Heflin was part of four of the most successfull Trojan teams in program history: four conference championships, two regional titles and North's first appearance in a sectional championship game in more than 30 years.

Heflin's stellar pitching was a foundation of the Trojans' success during her varsity stint, but if there was one constant it was that she would deflect praise to those around her.

"She's so humble. She would never talk about herself," North coach Mark Magro said. "She was confident, but not cocky. She never put herself ahead of her teammates."

Humility is something Heflin has always had, and it's a trait that became even more ingrained thanks to the two coaches who said she should shelve the idea of being a pitcher, and her parents.

"Growing up there were some humbling experiences," she said. "I had to work hard to get to where I am, and my parents told me never to brag, so it comes from my parents and how they brought me up."

Those two travel coaches obviously didn't see what Heflin's youth coaches in DOLLS saw or what a slew of high school coaches saw when she stepped inside the pitcher's circle. That is, an athletic player, a hard thrower and a fierce competitor.

"Heflin is all that they say she is," Downers Grove South coach Ron Havelka said. "She's a great pitcher."

"We haven't faced a pitcher like Heflin all year," Benet coach Jerry Schilf said before Heflin and the Trojans topped the Redwings in the playoffs. "Without a doubt she's the best pitcher we've seen."

After starting her softball career in first grade, Heflin assumed her pitching duties in second grade and has been at it ever since. She also played first base and third base when she wasn't pitching earlier in her career, but pitching was always her favorite.

Pitching won't get any easier at the next level when she continues her career at UIC, where she intends to study criminal justice in hopes of becoming a lawyer. But if there is one other constant for Heflin, it's that she won't shy away from a challenge.

"I always loved pitching because it's such a challenge," she said. "I like doing something not a lot of other players could do, something that's hard to do."


Meet the 2013 All-Area Softball South Team:

Stephanie Abello

School:
Benet

Year: Sophomore

For opposing pitchers, there was probably no scarier sight than seeing Abello step into the batter's box. The East Suburban Catholic all-conference selection led the Redwings in average (.550) and home runs (12), tied for team-high honors with 51 RBIs and also scored 21 runs, all in 25 games.


Jess Andree

School:
Downers Grove South

Year: Junior

Batting in the heart of the order, Andree consistently produced all season and led South's regulars in hits (53), doubles (13), home runs (six), RBIs (34) and batting average (.449). The West Suburban Gold all-conference shortstop also committed just nine errors in 215 innings and was team co-MVP this spring.


Caitlyn Daly

School:
Downers Grove South

Year: Junior

A key cog in the Mustangs' offensive machine, Daly batted .407 overall this spring but picked it up with runners in scoring position, hitting .478 in those situations. She finished with 30 RBIs, a team-high 38 runs scored and five home runs, and committed only two errors this season. She was named West Suburban Gold all-conference and team co-MVP.


Caroline Hedgcock

School:
Downers Grove South

Year: Freshman

Up with the varsity from the first game of the season, Hedgcock hardly performed like a freshman. The West Suburban Gold all-conference player was among the team leaders offensively with a .368 average, 25 RBIs and three home runs, and she also assumed the role of No. 1 pitcher, throwing 154.1 innings and finishing with a 15-8 record.


Elaine Heflin

School:
Downers Grove North

Year: Senior

The UIC-bound Heflin was one of the most dominant pitchers in the state, and her stats bear that out. The West Suburban Silver all-conference pick finished the season with a 17-5 record with a 0.96 ERA while allowing just 30 walks and striking out 267 batters in 146 innings. She also threw two perfect games, three no-hitters and 10 shutouts.


Carly Jaworski

School:
Lemont

Year: Senior

This senior seemingly did it all for the Indians this spring. The ace of the pitching staff, Jaworski finished with a record of 12-6 with two saves and posted an ERA of 1.50 in 126 innings of work. Offensively, as the team's No. 3 hitter, Jaworski batted .425 with 11 doubles, four triples, three home runs and 35 RBIs.


Rylie Jay

School:
Lemont

Year in school: Sophomore

Coming off an outstanding freshman campaign, Jay outdid herself this spring. A talented shortstop with a cannon arm, this sophomore made life miserable for opposing pitchers. She batted .584 on the season with 13 doubles, 10 home runs, 43 runs scored and 51 RBIs.


Sabrina Kuchta

School:
Hinsdale South

Year: Junior

While the Hornets may have ups and downs this season, Kuchta sure didn't. Playing in every game this spring, the West Suburban Gold all-conference selection led South in almost every offensive category, including batting average (.441), runs scored (28), RBIs (26), doubles (10) and home runs (five) as the team captured a regional title.


Megan Lotarski

School:
Bolingbrook

Year: Sophomore

The Raiders' ace pitcher kept her ERA under two for most of the season until a tough playoff game pushed it to 2.05. But the SouthWest Suburban Blue all-conference selection led Bolingbrook to the regional championship game for the first time in years by striking out a school-record 172 in 147 innings.


Maeve McGuire

School:
Benet

Year: Senior

McGuire's torrid production throughout her high school career continued this season. The University of Georgia-bound East Suburban Catholic all-conference selection finished the season with a .516 batting average, tied for the team lead with 51 RBIs and topped the Redwings with 26 walks and a .625 on-base percentage.


Carolyn Nojiri

School:
Downers Grove North

Year: Senior

The primary tasks for a leadoff hitter are to get on base and score runs. Nojiri excelled at both this spring, finishing the year with a team-high .519 batting average and with 33 runs scored. The West Suburban Silver all-conference player also had 15 extra-base hits with nine doubles, three triples, and three home runs.


Kristen Skala

School:
Westmont

Year: Junior

Skala produced whopping numbers at the plate for the Sentinels, where she batted .430 with a team-leading 24 RBIs and three home runs. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. The Interstate Eight all-conference player was also Westmont's top pitcher and finished the year 11-9 with a 1.96 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 128 innings pitched.


Summer Stitt

School:
Lisle

Year: Junior

A two-way threat for the Lions, Stitt was among the offensive leaders with a .429 batting average, .675 slugging percentage, 15 RBIs and 15 walks. As the ace pitcher, she fanned 124 and walked 49 in 131 innings. Stitt was team co-MVP, an Interstate Eight all-conference player, and all-academic in the I-8.


Honorable Mention

Benet:
Ali Mihalik, Marissa Panko, Emily York

Bolingbrook: Dani Knaak, Nikki Wood

Downers Grove North: Kelsey Gockman, Ali Woitovich, Maddie Wojciak

Downers Grove South: Kristen Bialek, Zahryha McFarland, Melissa Orton

Hinsdale Central: Emma Day, Faith Koffron, Emily Park, Annemarie Tracey

Hinsdale South: Jessica Buckridge, Lauren Cairo, Emily Mihalkanin

Lemont: Rachel Hall, Lauren May

Lisle: Abby Tarasewicz, Kelly Urban

Westmont: Claire Coneely, Maria Prete, Susie Sternard

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