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Rising stars emerge for Westmont, Downers North, Downers South baseball, softball

Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014 5:48 p.m. CST
(Mark Busch -
Downers Grove North's Ali Woitovich takes a cut during a game against Plainfield East on May 2. The senior has had a strong season offensively and is among the Trojans' leaders in several batting categories.
(Jason Rossi -
Westmont's Kevin Melvin heads into third base during an April 17 game against Dwight. The sophomore has stepped right in and had an impact for the Sentinels' pitching staff.
(Jason Rossi -
Downers Grove South's Danny Oriente takes a swing in a game against Hinsdale South on May 3. Oriente has been a key contributor both offensively and defensively this spring, his first on the varsity team.

Every spring offers a chance for baseball and softball players to impact their teams more than they ever have before. Here are a few of the players having breakout seasons on the diamond.

Emil Baftirovski

School: Downers Grove North

Class: Senior

Position: Outfielder

Impact: Baftirovski played in the Trojans' lineup last year, but he's taken it to another level this season. A no. 9 hitter for North last spring, he's now holding down an important spot at the top of the order. In addition to having a discerning eye at the plate, Baftirovski has the strength to mash extra-base hits, and he's also plays solid defense in the outfield.

"He's doing more things for us," head coach Chad Isaacson said. "He went from No. 9 to the top of the lineup and he's helped set the table for us."

Lindsay Brockoff

School: Westmont

Class: Senior

Position: Third base

Impact: In the sport of softball, where bunts are a big part of the game, it's important to have a good pitcher, catcher and shortstop. It's also key to have a solid third baseman, and Brockoff has provided exactly that this season.

"She's been incredible batting the lower part of our order," Westmont head coach Jason Bolden said. "She was on JV last year, but this year she's stepped up and she's been very good for us."

Payton Buresch

School: Downers Grove South

Class: Freshman

Position: Pitcher

Impact: The biggest compliment a coach can give a freshman who is playing on the varsity is that the player doesn't play like a freshman. Buresch most certainly does not play like a freshman. Sharing pitching duties for South's solid team, she had allowed just seven earned runs in 70 innings, an ERA of 0.70 as of May 9. She was also 12-0 in the circle with 91 strikeouts.

"She's really composed," South head coach Ron Havelka said. "She's a tough pitcher. She's good."

Kevin Melvin

School: Westmont

Class: Sophomore

Position: Pitcher

Impact: Making the jump from the sophomore team to the varsity is hardly easy, but Melvin has made it seem that way. He jumped right into the Sentinels' conference pitching rotation and rewarded Westmont head coach DJ Cock's faith in him. Most recently, he yielded just two earned runs as he pitched a complete game in an 11-3 win against Plano on Thursday.

"On the mound he's been nothing short of spectacular for us," Cocks said. "And lately he's started to hit the ball better and get back on track offensively."

Danny Oriente

School: Downers Grove South

Class: Sophomore

Position: Catcher

Impact: Oriente was stashed on South's underlevel teams last season but has been a key player for the Mustangs this season, both behind and at the plate. Defensively, he has handled South's pitching staff with aplomb and is fielding his position at a high percentage. Offensively, he was among South's leaders in hits (28), doubles (9) and RBIs (21) as of Saturday.

Ali Woitovich

School: Downers Grove North

Class: Senior

Position: Outfield

Impact: Woitovich was with North's varsity team last season, but this spring she has been one of the hottest hitters in the Trojans' lineup. Through action on Saturday, the senior was among the team leaders in hits (23), runs scored (16) and batting average (.442), and was the team leader in RBIs with 26. Defensively, she had committed just one error on the season.

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