2013 Season Outlook
The softball program continues to push onward as they strive to make improvements and gains each season. With the development of talent and leadership over the past couple of years, the team looks to fit the pieces together and build on the base they have already established. They approach the 2013 season with optimism regarding their level of play and with hopes of advancing to the post-season. The Trolls are also excited about having a brand new home field as they move to the Rt. 83 athletic complex.
“We are entering the season with a positive attitude as we have a strong structure already in place,” said Missy Bolhuis, who is entering her fourth year as the head coach. “We will be fine if we use the talent that we have and keep our heads in the game. In addition, moving to our new field creates a sense of pride and offers a better playing atmosphere that promises to benefit the team.”
The 2013 squad consists of 15 players who look to make significant improvement in last year’s 10-37 overall and 5-13 conference finish. They have a fair amount of experience with nine returners of which seven were consistent starters last season. In addition, of the six new players, two are junior transfers who know the college game. The new group also contains a couple of pitchers who will help strengthen that key position. Overall the roster personnel will allow the team to field experience in most positions.
“We have returned a large number of our key players and they will provide stability on the field,” commented Bolhuis. “One area in which we made gains was in pitching where we added a couple of quality throwers as well as help in that department in the coaching staff. In addition to their work on the mound, our pitchers will also contribute with the bat which keeps them in the line-up and gives us more flexibility in using other players in various field positions.”
While the Trolls are encouraged by their personnel and the experience they can field, they also have some concerns. With a small roster size they will have to shuffle some positions from game to game depending on the pitching rotation as will have players field multiple roles. They also realize that injuries could significantly make an impact. In addition the team will have to improve their consistency at the plate where they finished with a .267 batting average a year ago. They return three of their top five hitters, but will need to fill the gaps and find those players who can get on base.
The top returners for the Trolls provide leadership and experience in three difference areas. Junior Brianna Brugioni (Ingleside, Illinois), who has earned second team all-conference honors for the past two seasons, is the team’s leading pitcher. Last year she led the team with 162.1 innings pitched while posting a 2.29 ERA and striking out 127 batters. In addition she batted .264 and led the team with 31 RBIs. When not on the mound she will stay in the line-up and field another position. Sophomore Anna Phillips (Tampico, Illinois) is the returning center fielder and lead-off batter. Her speed helped her achieve a .329 batting average with 51 hits last year as well allowed her to cover a lot of territory in the outfield. Sophomore Jayme Love (Franklin, Wisconsin) brings experience to the infield as she was the starting short stop last year. Her aggressive play adds to the strength of the defense as well the offense in which she hit .311 a year ago. In addition Love gives depth to the pitching staff as she logged 66 innings last year.
Those three key players will have plenty of support in other returners and incoming players. Along with Brugioni and Love, the pitching staff returns junior Mattie McGuire (Marengo, Illinois), who pitched 34.1 innings last year with a 3.67 ERA. She will also help out in the infield covering the corner bases and in the line-up, where she posted a .298 batting average last year. Additions to the pitching staff include junior Michelle Interrante (Villa Park, Illinois), a transfer from College of DuPage where she played for the past two seasons, and freshman Adrianna Puente (Chula Vista, California). With her experience, Interrante will be in the line-up on the mound or at first base and will also provide some power in the batting order. Puente, who was a rookie starter on the women’s soccer team in the fall, will also give the team pitching and infield depth.
Working in tandem with the pitching staff will be a group of catchers that provide a variety of experience. Last season senior Tegan O’Connor (South Elgin, Illinois) shared time behind the plate as well at second base and will factor into those starting positions again this season. Junior Kaleigh Velasquez (Marengo, Illinois) joins the team new this year after playing for two seasons at Judson University. She has a good arm that will benefit her play behind the page as well as an outfielder. Also helping out as catcher is freshman April Lynn (Pontiac, Illinois), who can also field an outfield position.
The infield positions will see a variety of players rotate into those spots depending on the particular pitching and catching line-up. Some members of the pitching staff will cover first and third bases and Love has short stop covered. Any number of different players can field second base. O’Connor was a starter there last season and sophomore Tori Stevenson (Crystal Lake, Illinois) also gained experience at that base a year ago. New to the position is freshman Tori Grzincic (Dwight, Illinois), who displays the talent and hard work to gain a starting role there or at another infield position, and sophomore Christina Pacholik (Tinley Park, Illinois), who missed last season due to injury.
Center field and left field return two starters in Phillips and junior Bailan Reynolds (Antioch, Illinois). Reynolds was the starting left fielder last season and also provided a .269 batting average. Right field will be occupied by any number of versatile players, such as returners junior Jessica Leyva (Chino, California) and sophomore Kelly Sweeney (Frankfort, Illinois), who are swing players that can play that position as well as fill in at infield spots, as well as Lynn, Velasquez, Stevenson, and Pacholik.
The team begins their season in Florida during spring break in mid-March. Their conference schedule starts on March 26 and the Trolls make their home debut on their new field on April 1 in a game with the University of St. Francis (Indiana). That non-conference double-header is one of seven the team has scheduled to go along with their ten CCAC dates. In addition the team has weekend tournaments at Olivet Nazarene University (Illinois) and Ashford University (Iowa). Post-season play begins on May 2-4 with the conference tournament.