ELMHURST – Not many hitters step into the varsity team as the No. 3 hitter as a freshman, but that's what York's Abby Solem did a year ago.
She was a strong No. 3 hitter, too, hitting .397 with a team-best 37 RBIs. However, this year she's gone to another level.
The sophomore third baseman has almost doubled her home run total already, improving from five last year to nine currently, has 44 RBIs and is hitting .413. She is already receiving interest from Division I programs.
"I'm just really focused on hitting the ball harder," Solem said. "I've just been focusing more at the plate. I'm not trying to do anything different. I haven't really changed my mechanics. I've just worked on getting stronger over the offseason."
Solem hasn't been the only York hitter to have a standout season so far. Senior DePaul recruit Angela Scalzitti is hitting .488 with 25 stolen bases in 23 games and junior catcher Sarah Milkowski also sports a .488 average with 13 doubles and 26 RBIs.
Throw in quality production that York is receiving from Amanda Karnatz, Lauren Lahey, Sarah Maciejewski, Gabby Magnifico and Morgan Mehring, and the lineup is much deeper than the one that helped the Dukes get to state last year. Isabella Jaeger, who was slated to be the team's cleanup hitter before suffering a concussion early in the season, made her return as a pinch runner in Wednesday's 4-3 win against Lyons Township and is going to work her way back into the lineup.
"We're just trying to get her back in and work her back into the mix a little bit," coach Drew McGuire said. "She's been out for quite a while so it's something we need to ease her back into and get her some reps. The girls that have been playing for her have done awesome for us. We're just trying to keep that balance of everybody."
Having Jaeger out for all but four games and pitcher Brooke Bandy out for all but six has contributed to the Dukes falling short of internal expectations as far as the West Suburban Silver is concerned. The Dukes are 6-4 in the Silver.
Despite that, York received the top seed in the Trinity sectional. Regular season wins against Oak Park-River Forest, Fenwick and Trinity, the next three seeds in the sectional, contributed to York's seed.
"They're very excited about the postseason," McGuire said. "Obviously conference didn't go the way we wanted it to or expected it to. We dropped a few games in the conference that we felt we should have won. We have good teams in our conference and you got to come ready to play everyday.
"Hopefully we'll get healthy here for playoffs and everyone will be ready to hit their stride running in a couple weeks."
The Dukes are hoping to match or surpass last year's fourth place finish.
"We can't wait, especially being in the same sectional [as last year]," Solem said. "I'm really excited to go hopefully make a good run. I don't want to look ahead, but we're hoping to make a good run."
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