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Sports

High school softball: Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South looking to keep up recent success this season

Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South among area teams looking to compete this season

The ultimate destination for high school softball teams is Peoria for the state championships in June, but there is a lot to be decided before teams start booking charter buses and hotel rooms. Here is the outlook this season for Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South, and other area teams.

Benet Redwings

Coach: Jerry Schilf

2016 record: 5-21

Top players

NAME YEAR POS.

Danielle Bernicky sr. OF

Kiara Gallagher sr. 1B/OF

Nina Hulet sr. OF

Megan McCormick sr. C/3B

Elena Stevenson so. P/2B

Outlook: After a tough 2016 campaign, the Redwings remain on the young side with three freshmen and two sophomores on the roster. Freshmen Megan Seranko (pitcher) and Allison Forney (utility player) could be major pieces to the puzzle this season.

Gallagher was East Suburban Catholic all-conference last year and will be a mainstay in the lineup. Stevenson will see her fair share of time in the circle and in the field.

Downers Grove North Trojans

Coach: Eric Landschoot

2016 record: 24-6

Top players

NAME YEAR POS.

Madison Christ jr. OF/P

Raemon Meents sr. C

Cece Miglio sr. 3B

Katie Polaski sr. 2B

Savannah Rodriguez jr. 1B/P

Zoe Varsbergs sr. 1B

Jade Wick jr. OF

Outlook: The Trojans return many of the pieces that helped them go 10-2 in the West Suburban Silver conference and win a Class 4A regional title.

Varsbergs, headed to NIU to play in college, is just one of the college-bound seniors. Meents (Ohio Dominican), Miglio (Benedictine) and Polaski (Loyola) will play in college next season. Rodriguez (Western Illinois), junior outfielder Renee Bielawa (Hillsdale) and freshman pitcher Estelle Czech (Pitt) have made college commitments.

Hitting and defense should be strengths, and few teams, if any, will be able to match North’s talent level. It remains to be seen if that talent will translate into a lengthy postseason run, but it’s a good starting point for a program that has won regional titles in three of the past four seasons. 

Downers Grove South Mustangs

Coach: Lauren Berg

2016 record: 36-4

Top players

NAME YEAR POS.

Rebecca Bluder jr. 3B

Lindsey Hermann jr. OF

Randi McKay so. OF

Kara McKenna jr. P

Morgan Meyer sr. OF/P

Maddison Paladino sr. C

Outlook: There is a new look to the lineup after several seniors graduated as well as a new look to the bench, where Berg takes over for longtime Hall of Fame coach Ron Havelka.

The five batters at the top of the order graduated, including four-year varsity standout Caroline Hedgcock, who was a dominant pitcher and feared slugger. No. 2 pitcher Payton Buresch opted not to play this season, so Meyer will slide into the No. 1 pitcher spot after going 7-1 in 46 2/3 innings last year. McKenna and Samantha Krupa saw very limited pitching time last year.

Though the top of the lineup has moved on, Hermann (.405 average, 36 RBIs), Bluder (.333, five home runs, 22 RBIs), Meyer (.300, 14 RBIs), McKay (.343, 28 RBIs) and McKenna (57 plate appearances) saw plenty of action and should help South keep up its high level of play.

Hinsdale Central Red Devils

Coach: Brittany Wolski

2016 record: 13-11

Top players

NAME YEAR POS.

Paige Bareck sr. OF/P

Riley Burr sr. 3B/P

Lilja Carden jr. OF

Julia Chatterjee jr. IF

Abby Shaker sr. C

Outlook: Wolski, the assistant coach in recent years, takes over as the head coach with former leader Lee Maciejewski as the assistant. 

Many of the players on the roster saw plenty of action last season, including big bats Carden and Shaker. Bareck is back on the varsity after two years away and should help in several areas. Bareck, Burr and senior Serena Martinath, who was the ace pitcher for the JV in 2016, will team up to replace Courtney Berlin, who was the ace for four seasons.

Hinsdale South Hornets

Coach: Kelly Van Hout

2016 record: 11-22

Top players

NAME YEAR POS.

Colleen Collins jr. OF

Ellie Fichtelberg jr. IF

Madison Kern jr. P

Kaitlyn Little jr. IF

Marissa Marrera jr. IF/P

Outlook: Youth led to some rough results the past couple of years for the Hornets. They are still young without a senior on the roster, but the experience of recent seasons could help lead to better results this year.

Kern and Marrera have pitching experience under their belts and will form a solid 1-2 punch. The infield defense with Collins, Fichtelberg, Little and Marrera (when she’s not pitching) should be top-notch.

The veterans, plus the addition of junior Donna Stevens, who missed last season because of injury, and talented freshmen Emily Corson, Erin Leake, Lauren Polich and Madison Polich could help South take aim at the West Suburban Gold title and the program’s first regional title since 2013.

Lisle Lions

Coach: Trent Schalk

2016 record: 13-16

Top players

NAME YEAR POS.

Catherine Coppin sr. CF/C

Amanda Ericson jr. P

Tiffany Harmon sr. IF

Anna Palicka sr. P/3B

Maddie Smith jr. If/OF

Outlook: The Lions put things together after an up-and-down regular season to make a run to a Class 2A sectional final last year. Only four starters return from that team, but pitching, which is always key in softball, should be a strength with Palicka and Ericson as a 1-2 combo.

The offense already looks in fine form. Lisle scored 27 runs in four games as part of a 3-1 start to the season.

Westmont Sentinels

Coach: Sue Zapinski

2016 record: 4-18

Top players

NAME YEAR POS.

Kiera Aldridge sr. P/SS

Rachel Chorney sr. CF

Ashley Eiermann jr. C

Alana Kraft jr. 3B

Lauren Lambert jr. IF/C

Emily Whitburn jr. 2B

Outlook: There were few bright spots in the 2016 regular season, but the Sentinels put it together to win a Class 2A regional title, and they look to recapture the momentum from the end of last year.

Aldridge, Chorney, Eiermann and Kraft have a wealth of varsity experience. Aldridge figures to team up with Alix Mendoza, who is returning from an injury in 2016, to be a 1-2 pitching combo.

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