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Softball: Previewing Lyons Township, Morton, Nazareth, Riverside-Brookfield and Fenwick

The high school softball season has begun as teams begin their quest toward the state finals in East Peoria. Here is a preview of area teams.

Fenwick Friars

Coach: Sarah James

2018 record: 15-18

Top players


Cassandra Lee sr. P

Alyssa Stramaglia sr. P

Rachel Martinez sr. 3B/OF

Ciara Herbert jr. OF

Tess LoGuidice jr. C

Mary Barshop so. C

Outlook: The Friars had a ton of talent last year, winning a regional title, but James said there was little leadership and support. That appears to have changed. Stramaglia struck out 72 batters on the mound and led Fenwick in runs batted in with 17. Lee, another returning pitcher, struck out 51 and was second on Fenwick in hits with 16. Martinez, a Southern Indiana recruit, led Fenwick in hits with 19, and Herbert, a fourth returning starter, led the Friars in steals with eight.

“Although most of the team is returning, the team as a whole has stepped up with one goal in mind – make a deep run for state,” James said.

Lyons Township Lions

Coach: Nicole Paluch

2018 record: 15-14

Top players


Katelyn Malinowski sr. SS

Josie Arriaga sr. LF

Payton McQueeny jr. C

Meagan Torres sr. OF/2B

Ava Kostecki so. P/CF

Lily Hanafin fr. P/1B

Outlook: Malinowski, a three-year varsity starter who posted a .418 on-base percentage with 21 runs scored last year, is the glue that holds it all together. Arriaga, who will play collegiately at Elgin Community College, is a quick outfielder with great instincts and a verbal leader. McQueeny, who hit .252 for last year’s regional finalist, is a wall behind the plate. Newcomers to watch include Torres, who has great instincts and a smooth swing, Kostecki, a strong left-handed pitcher and center fielder, and Hanafin, a dominant pitcher and one of three freshmen on varsity.

“We look forward to continuing to grow as a team and see our upperclassmen continue to share their knowledge and wisdom with their new teammates,” Paluch said.

Morton Mustangs

Coach: Anthony Blood

2018 record: 13-14

Top players


Melly Gonzales sr. 1B

Alexis Maldonado jr. P/3B

Arleth Cruz jr. SS

Mina Salazar jr. 2B

Paulina Viveros jr. C

Alexys Santos sr. OF

Emily Sanchez sr. OF

Brianna Madera sr. OF/C

Outlook: The Mustangs return five starters – Gonzales, Maldonado, Cruz, Salazar and Viveros from a team that went 4-8 in conference and lost to Reavis in the first round of regionals. Santos, Sanchez and Madera are also returning. Newcomers to the team include senior outfielder/pitcher Nyome Zavala, senior catcher/first baseman Cassidy Waywod, senior outfielder Gizelle Ramirez, junior outfielder/pitcher Ailany Reyes, junior outfielder Kiana Roman and sophomore pitcher Aleah Collazo.

“Morton’s looking to stay competitive again this year with a young team,” Blood said. “We are optimistic that our strong defense will lead to a successful season.”

Nazareth Roadrunners

Coach: Chris VanDegraft

2018 record: 9-27

Top players


Jordan Barnes sr. C

Allyson Layne so. P

Olivia Mardirosian so. 1B/P

Toni Rodriguez so. 3B

Emily Monahan so. 2B/SS

Jamie Suppa so. OF

Paige Barnes so. OF

Nicole Salata jr. OF

Jazyman Casas fr. SS/2B

Melissa Hadzic fr. U

Outlook: First-year coach VanDegraft takes over a very young team, so the Roadrunners will need to play in the moment and handle the pressure of close games. Pitching, led by Layne and Mardirosian, should be a strength. Barnes, an IUPUI recruit, is a returning all-conference player and a powerful hitter with a strong arm behind the plate. Rodriguez is an excellent defender with a plus arm and a good middle of the lineup hitter, and Monahan is another strong defender with quick hands and an excellent baserunner. VanDegraft has loaded up Nazareth’s schedule with many games against Class 4A schools to be playoff-ready.

“Our girls will play to the very last out each and every game,” VanDegraft said. “Desire, effort and attitude are keys to our success.”

Riverside-Brookfield Bulldogs

Coach: Doug Schultz

2018 record: 17-12

Top players


Lauren Lambros sr. IF

Kailyn Ngo sr. OF/IF

Nadia Ranieri jr. P/IF

Emily Noel jr. C

Abby Favela jr. IF

Ashley Lynch sr. C/IF

Olivia Blood jr. IF

Aliana Chiquito jr. OF/IF

Bella Garcia so. C/IF

Hannah Organ fr. P/OF

Outlook: Five starters – Lambros, Ngo, Ranieri, Noel and Favela – return for a deep Bulldogs lineup that can score up and down. Lambros and Ngo are fourth-year varsity players. Ranieri is in her third year. Schultz, in his sixth year as head coach, thinks R-B has grown defensively. Lynch played for Class 3A state champion Montini last season, Queen of Peace before that. Schultz points to improving the team’s mental approach as key. The Bulldogs will be challenged with Bishop McNamara and St. Francis added to their league’s division.

“This team needs to understand that they have the talent to beat any team we play,” Schultz said.

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