Softball: GSSC conference outlook
Paul Laub has seen a lot in his 29 previous years as head softball coach at Whiting. But coming into this season, he said can never remember losing six starters from the previous season.
That is, until now. The Oilers suffered a disappointing loss to Washington Township in last year’s sectional to end a 19-7 campaign. Now they lose a talented group of players that include pitcher Ashley Pokraka (1.49 ERA, 268 SO) and catcher Amanda Blackwell (.464 avg., 5 HR).
In addition to a handful of returners, Whiting will have four junior and two senior newcomers to the varsity team, as well as sophomores Mollie Lovasko and Lily Hale who will compete for the starting pitcher position.
Bishop Noll is coming off a great regular season, going 13-1 in the GSSC to win the title. But the postseason was disappointing with a loss to Hanover in the sectional final.
The good news for longtime coach Ralph Laramie is that his No. 1 pitcher Vanessa Hartzell (17-5, 1.03 ERA, 22 RBI) is back, along with seniors Elena Palomo and Rachel Williamson (.313) are back to try to repeat in the GSSC.
Calumet had a breakout campaign last year, going 17-9, finishing third place in the conference and hanging with Andrean in the sectional in a 1-0 loss. The Warriors lost all-GSSC infielder Misty Alvarado, but the majority of the squad is back, including the senior trio of pitcher Kaitlyn Magiera (.423, 191 SO), catcher Amber Redd (.446, 34 runs) and second baseman Amanda Stenger (.388, 29 runs).
Wheeler had a respectable season the year after winning state, but this could be the year it returns to postseason prominence, or at least competing for another sectional title. The Bearcats lost three players who contributed to the state title, but they return infielders Mari Medina, Whitney Maas and Nickole Finch, a sophomore who will also pitch.
Lake Station coach Linda Llewellyn was excited last year about the Eagles having a large turnout for tryouts. This year it’s all about improvement. The Eagles were 7-12 last season, but lost six starters due to graduation. So Llewellyn will count on sophomores Shelby Jorgenson, Caitlin Acker and Kariann Schiller, as well as junior Jessa Rogers, a left-handed pitcher with travel ball experience.
River Forest will be young with a new coach — Austen Robison — leading that youthful squad. Robison is excited about having several freshman who will contribute. But there will be some experienced players back, including junior shortstop Kayla Smith and sophomore catcher Ashley Ogren.
North Newton returns offense and pitching as the Spartans try to move up the ranks in a tough GSSC. Junior Allyson Leach leads the way in the circle while senior Alyssia Powers will lead the hitting that already scored 11 runs in its season opener against Kouts.
Marquette did not have enough players to field a team last year, but the Blazers will be back on the field with new coach Kayla Smith.