Softball: Joliet West, Joliet Central rounding into formJoliet West's Jordan Davis tags out Providence's Sarah Brightmore at Providence High School in New Lenox, Illinois, Thursday, Mar. 22, 2012. | Michael DiNovo~For the Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 23, 2012 8:40PM
Although both Joliet Central and Joliet West went 0-3 last week, the two teams’ softball fortunes have turned for the better this season. It’s the second year of separate varsity programs at the schools, and, as they prepare to face one another for the first time this season Wednesday at Central, each is in search of good diamond times ahead.
Each took a 10-9 record into this week. Last season West was 11-22, Central 3-26.
“This year we have been more aggressive on the bases and have also been able to use more small ball,” West coach Heather Suca said. “We have more speed this year, along with more power at the plate. We have five players hitting above .300 and a total of eight home runs for the season.
“Another key to our success is Katie McKay has been pitching better this year. Her ERA is down from last year and she has had more strikeouts per game compared to last year.”
Through 18 games the Tigers’ leading hitters were Tresa Fahrner (.446), Jordan Davis (.356, 3 HRs), Jennifer Ames (.346), McKay (.333) and Bri Thompson (.304).
Suca, who helped Joliet Township to great softball heights in the late 1990s, hopes for success on both sides of town.
“I am very happy to see that the softball programs are improving every year,” she said. “There have been many struggles since 2000 (when JT won the Class AA state title); however, I feel that we are heading in the right direction. Splitting the two schools, we knew there would be struggles.
“Over the past four years we have had more girls try out each year. We have been very young in the past while rebuilding. The next two years we will have a lot more experience and a solid program.”
Central coach Erin Douglas has seen nice improvement in her squad too.
“The biggest difference this year has been experience,” Douglas said. “Many of the girls on the team this year had varsity experience last year, which gave them a much better understanding of what it meant to be competitive at this level. The girls came in focused and ready to work hard. I couldn’t be more proud of the progress they’ve made.”
The Steelmen stat leaders through 18 games include Emily Eichholzer (.444, 24 runs), Miranda Lawson (.392, 17 RBI, 2 HRs, 6 triples) and Jaelyn Tate (.387).
Interstate Eight battles
There’s a lot of parity in the Interstate Eight this season.
In the North Division, Coal City and Sandwich are tied at 5-2, while Seneca (4-3) is tied for third.
In the South Division, Wilmington is 5-2, good for second behind Class 2A power Manteno. Peotone is third at 4-3 and Dwight, which is among the top teams in the state in Class 1A, is 3-4.
To illustrate the I-8 balance, Seneca defeated Wilmington 4-2 on Friday. Nicole Pihl and Sarah Radtke each hit two-run homers for Seneca. Wilmington pitcher Paula Tupper stuck out 10.