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Softball: Previewing Benet, Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South, Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South

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

Benet Redwings

Coach: Jerry Schilf

2018 record: 3-22

Top players


Meghan Seranko jr. P/3B

Elena Stevenson sr. P/3B

Elayna Brdecka fr. P/3B

Sami Schilf fr. P/1B

Katie Bastuga fr. OF

Grace Fajardo fr. OF/IF

Mackenzie Relihan jr. C

Allson Regan sr. 2B

Bridget Linder jr. 2B

Outlook: The Redwings have struggled the past three seasons, barely having enough girls to field a team. But with 14 freshmen, six of them on varsity and four or five potential starters, Schilf thinks things might be on the mend. Seranko is the ace, but Stevenson, Brdecka and Schilf would be most seasons.

“We have depth at pitching,” coach Schilf said. “Four, possibly five, will see plenty of action.”

Stevenson, a North Central commit, hit a team-best .420 last spring. Relihan, Benet’s best hitter, will do the majority of the catching.

Freshmen Bastuga, Fajardo and Brdecka bring speed to the order.

“Last year we struggled off the mound and in the outfield,” Schilf said. “This year it’s our strength.”

Downers Grove North Trojans

Coach: Eric Landschoot

2018 record: 26-8

Top players


Estelle Czech jr. P/1B

Audrey Gusel sr. P

Melissa Manzo sr. IF

Payton Janicki fr. IF

Kendall Cole fr. IF

Outlook: Few teams can match the quality on the mound that the Trojans will throw out there with the combo of Czech, a Boston College commit, and Gusel, a Holy Cross recruit.

Czech is a two-way force. She went 9-3 with 75 strikeouts over 61 innings and also hit .443 during the regular season with four homers, 28 RBIs and 22 runs scored for a Downers North team that reached the sectional semifinals. Manzo, who will play collegiately at Lake Forest, is a third returning starter. Janicki and Cole are two newcomers to watch for a Trojans’ program that has won five regional titles over the past six years.

“We’re returning some top-end talent and have some new members who will break into the starting lineup and do some damage,” Landschoot said. “Two D-1 commits, strong defense and a solid batting order should make for a great season.”

Downers Grove South Mustangs

Coach: Jim Cushing

2018 record: 25-7

Top players


Randi McKay sr. P/2B

Maggie Greco sr. SS

Sydney Rau jr. CF

Morgan Rau jr. 3B/2B

Amelia Jiminez sr. OF

Heather Lea jr. OF

Outlook: Cushing, for many years retired coach Ron Havelka’s right-hand man in the dugout, takes over as head coach of the Mustangs, who lost to eventual state runner-up Plainfield North in the sectional semifinals last spring.

McKay, a four-year starter, and third-year starter Greco are a great foundation. McKay, a UW-Green Bay recruit, hit .500 with 15 doubles, 29 runs batted in and just three strikeouts at the plate, and went 11-7 with a 2.04 earned run average on the mound last spring. Leadoff hitter Greco, a George Washington commit, hit .506 with 22 steals and 11 doubles. Jiminez, who will play collegiately at Elgin Community College, hit .488 with 25 RBIs. Sydney Rau hit .355 and Morgan Rau hit .333.

“We will be trying to build off last year’s successes,” Cushing said. “We will be young at some positions and development will be crucial.”

Hinsdale Central Red Devils

Coach: Brittany Zust

2018 record: 5-16

Top players


Giselle Castaneda sr. P/U

Michaela Malec sr. C

Lainey Harvey so. OF

Brooke Bauer fr. SS

Kaila Kuo fr. P/2B

Outlook: The Red Devils enter their second season with only one level of softball, with every girl making varsity. The community is doing a better job getting softball in town, but Hinsdale is still the only area in the western suburbs that does not have feeder programs. This team is very young and inexperienced, but also boasts a large senior class. Castaneda, who will play collegiately at Dominican, hit .387 last year and will pitch and be a utility player. Harvey hit .379 as a freshman. Malec hit .299 last year.

“We’re looking to grow from both a personal and team standpoint,” Zust said. “Looking forward to seeing our large senior class lead these young kids and show them how to play varsity ball.”

Hinsdale South Hornets

Coach: Kelly Van Hout

2018 record: 12-19

Top players


Jasmine Carlson sr. OF/IF

Sam Pacentine jr. IF/OF

Megan McGinely so. C/IF

Erin Leake jr. OF/IF

Emily Corson jr. IF

Nicole Berger fr. OF/IF

Stephanie Rochowicz fr. IF/P

Kaylin Drake fr. IF/OF

Abby Leban so. P/OF

Mary Lavorato so. IF/OF

Skylar Hayes so. IF/OF

Sylvannah Batchelor sr. OF

Outlook: The Hornets are a young team looking to catch opponents by surprise. Carlson, committed to Arkansas-Pine Bluff, leads the way. Other returning starters from a team that beat Stagg in a regional championship and lost to Marist in sectionals include Pacentine, McGinely, Leake and Corson.

“This group works really hard and is eager to learn,” Van Hout said. “We have a lot of solid athletes that are ready to pick up where we left off last season.

Westmont Sentinels

Coach: Sue Zapinski

2018 record: 7-22

Top players


Caitlin Ashcraft sr. CF

Maggie Durr jr. SS/P

Jesse Ramos jr. OF

Cassie Bogacz so. SS/P

Delanie Graziano so. C/OF

Tori Behrens jr. 2B/OF

MaKenzie Blaine fr. P/SS

Jordan Karesh fr. 3B/C

Mary Niemeyer fr. 1B

Outlook: The Sentinels are a young team, with just five returning starters from a regional champion, and play in a very competitive conference. Ashcraft, a Dominican recruit and Westmont’s starting center fielder, will lead the offense and bat cleanup. Durr will be the Sentinels’ starting pitcher and play shortstop when not on the mound. Graziano is behind the plate at catcher.

“Our early season will have a tremendous learning curve with so many new and young players,” Zapinski said. “We will strive to steadily improve as the season progresses.”

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