Softball: Preseason top 25
Updated: April 11, 2012 8:13PM
1. Leyden – DePaul-bound pitcher Morgan Maize (18 HR’s 77 RBIs; 23-6, 1.18 ERA is one of the top returning players in the state can single handedly beat you. Eastern Illinois-bound April Markowski (.360, 3 HR) and senior catcher Dana Sullivan (.369) are two of the six returning starters.
2. Conant — The Cavin sisters – pitcher Brianna (Wisconsin-Greenbay) and outfielder Miranda (Oklahoma State) -- are back along with five other starters from a 27-3 team that was knocked out of the playoffs in the regional final by a little known team then --Leyden.
3. Elk Grove — Michigan State-bound senior pitcher Dani Goranson is back and that alone is enough reason for optimism. She is one of seven returning starters from a 34-win team that lost in the sectional final to eventual Class 4A runner-up St. Charles North.
4. Marengo — Seven players return from the Class 3A state title team that coach Dwain Nance feels can compete with most of the top 4A teams. Pitcher Chloe Montgomery is a key loss, but UIC-bound senior transfer from Harvard, Lindsay Melson (13-2, 0.79 ERA; .392, 3 HR), should make it fun.
5. Richards — Illinois Gatorade player of the year and Northwestern-bound pitcher Brianna LeBeau (25-3) is back for her final season and is joined by six other returning starters. The Bulldogs started 28-0 last year and finished 32-3 after losing a supersectional to Benet.
6. Minooka – Lost regional title to Sandburg but won 28 games and return six starters, including Wisconsin-bound Sara Novak (school record 12 home runs) and Lindsay Fenner (.364, 7 HR, 27 RBI). Arguably the most potent offensive in the state, recording wins over Elk Grove and Marist in 2011.
7. Andrew – Eight starters return from a team that won the Southwest Suburban Red and a regional title before losing the sectional title to Sandburg. Returnees include pitcher Brooke Hofer (Washington University) and the Christner sisters -- Kelly (Michigan) and Katie (Wisconsin).
8. Benet – Five Division-I starters return from a team that won 31 games and finished third in state in Class 4A, including Georgia-bound Maeve McGuire. If the pitching is just a little better than average, the Redwings should be well above average.
9. Trinity — Seven starters are back from a 29-win team that lost to Mother McAuley in the Class 4A sectionals. Michigan--bound Abby Ramirez returns her .611 batting average and nine home runs along with Illinois-bound teammate Nicole Evans (.467, 8 HRs).
10. Lockport — Six players return from a team that won 26 games but lost to Sandburg in the sectional semifinals. Pitcher Taylor Weissenhofer (Valparaiso) and shortstop Tierney Bottino (Western Illinois) are the top returners for yet another loaded Porters’ team.
11. Cary-Grove – Sectional final loss has all nine returning starters from a 30-2 team motivated to make some noise this season. Three-year pitcher Lindsay Efflandt returns with 57 varsity wins under her belt. She helped get her team to the supersectional two years ago.
12. Fremd — Last year was a rebuilding year for the Vikings, despite 28 wins and an appearance in a sectional final. Seven starters are back, including slugger Michelle Mazur (5 HRs) and pitcher Rachel Doering (1.25 ERA). Mazur will move from right field to first base.
13. Elgin – Five returning starts return from a 20-12 team that beat Cary-Grove and Downers South last season. Leading the returnees are Missouri-St.Louis bound Hannah Perryman, who had nine home runs, including four grand slams.
14. Downers North – Sophomore pitcher Dale Ryndak (13-3, 0.99) as a freshman) will ride solo in the circle this season with the graduation of her sibling partner in crime last year, Kendall Ryndak. Team finished 30-5 last season after being upset in the regional final by Naperville North.
15. Lisle – Six starters are back from a team that finished fourth in Class 2A and won 28 games. Valparaiso-bound senior 3B Mackenzie Buchelt and super sophomore shortstop Summer Stitt will guide the offense. Junior outfield Kelly Urban is back after a knee injury kept her out last season.
16. Lake Zurich – Was one win away from going downstate after losing a supersectional to New Trier. Seven starters are back, including what might be the best group of sophomores in the state. This team expects to score a lot of runs.
17. New Trier – Slugger Chelsea Delaney (Kenyon) has graduted but six starters return from a team that finished in fourth place in Class 4A, including Colgate-bound pitcher Brigit Ieuter and Georgetown-bound catcher Holly Morrison. The Trevians were 10-0 in the Central Suburban South.
18. DeKalb – Won conference, advanced to the Elite eight, went 31-5, and return six starters, including the battery of pitcher Katie Kowalski and Alysha Guy. Kowalski, just a sophomore, opened some eyes as a freshman last season, shutting out Cary-Grove in the sectional final.
19. Lincoln-Way East – Seven starters are back, including Western Illinois-bound pitcher Kaycee Hart and Nicolle Miskowicz. New coach Elizabeth Pawlicki hopes to bring the Griffins back to the state power they were just a few years ago.
20. Mother McAuley — Loyola-bound senior pitcher Ashley Rogers returns with three other starters form a 29-win team. Keep an eye on sophomore slugger Alex Brown. McAuley is hoping to repeat as conference champs and get back to the sectional championship game (at least).
21. Lane — By far the best team in the city, proving that by winning the city title and going head-to-head with New Trier in a sectional semifinal before falling 3-2. Seven starters are back, including senior pitcher Kaleigh Ambrose (.441, 8 HR, 43 RBI – Lake Forest College).
22. Lakes – Seven returning starters are back from a 22-win team that lost the regional title to Antioch 4-3, and finished in second place (9-3) in the North Suburban Prairie conference. Leading the way will be catcher Meghan Mileski (seven home runs).
23. Beecher – Both pitchers are back from a 32-win season that included a regional title and an impressive win over Sandburg. The usually subdued Kevin Hayhurst even showed a hint of optimism: “This could be a very good playoff team,” he said.
24. Downers South – Four starters return from a 28-win team, including Division I players Danielle Trezzo (Illinois) and Katy LaCivita (Loyola). Add Hinsdale South transfer Jessica Andree to the mix and South should defend their West Suburban Gold title.
25. Sandburg— Just two starters back from a 28-win team that advanced to the supersectional. But this is Sandburg and they reload as opposed to rebuilding. Bradley-bound Amanda Barna and Western Illinois-bound Karissa Kouchis are the top returners. Keep an eye on left fielder Katie Guska.