NEW LENOX – While Lincoln-Way Central’s softball team has holes to fill after a good deal of talent graduated from last season’s 23-7 squad, one thing the Knights certainly don’t have is a shortage of pitching.
Coach Jeff Tarala has two aces to work with in juniors Amanda Weyh and Ashley Platek.
Weyh went 8-2 with a 2.39 ERA and struck out 94 hitters in 82 innings last season, while Platek posted a 7-2 record, a 1.80 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 541/3 innings.
Both are highly capable hitters as well, giving Tarala plenty of options. The trick, he says, is to pick the right one.
“It’s a huge plus to have two great pitchers if you can use them right,” Tarala said. “In the past, we’ve always had one pitcher. Having two is a very good problem to have, and I’ve never had it before last year. That was a learning process for me.”
Tarala hopes he can maximize Platek and Weyh’s talents now that he’s had a year coaching them. Both were at Lincoln-Way East for their freshman season before coming to the Knights last year due to district boundaries shifting after the closing of Lincoln-Way North.
“Now that we’ve learned from last year what each girl is good at, how they complement each other and what situations they succeed in, it becomes a lot easier,” Tarala said. “I think we can use them a lot more effectively this year. They’re both dual threats. They can pitch it, and they can really hit it.”
Weyh was especially fearsome for opposing pitchers last season. She hit .510 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs.
“It’s really enjoyable having success hitting and pitching,” Weyh said. “I like to put in a lot of hard work, then see the results of it.”
Weyh said having Platek as a teammate helps her immensely.
“It’s so nice to have more than one strong pitcher,” she said. “It takes some pressure off to know that if you’re maybe not having your best day, there’s someone else that can come in and help pick you up.
“I know we have a great defense behind me, too, and that helps a lot. Even if I miss my spot or something and the ball gets hit, I know they have my back.”
Platek adds plenty to the offense as well. She hit .359 with six home runs and 24 RBIs last season.
Senior infielder Kamryn Murphy, a Saint Xavier recruit, hit .339 last season and is an ace defender who is capable of playing all over the diamond but should spend most of her time at second base.
“We’ve told [Murphy] she looks like a different person this year,” Tarala said. “Her confidence level is up, she’s more vocal. You can tell how bad she wants to have a great season. That change happens with seniors and you can definitely see it in her and our other seniors.”
Murphy is embracing a leadership role.
“I think I was more of a selfish player last year, but I’m definitely playing for the team this year,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of new players this year, so it’ll be super different, but I think it’ll still be just as good. All the new players are good players, so it’s easy to work with them.”
Anchoring the outfield are senior Paige Sanders, who hit .361 last year, and junior Gabriella Gadville, who hit .337 and stole 14 bases.
Freshman catcher Carly Alvers, freshman outfielder Sydra Seville, sophomore catcher Sydney Grein and sophomore infielder Torince Muczynski are newcomers to watch.
After capturing the Southwest Suburban Red title and winning a regional last season, the Knights hope to go deeper into the postseason this year. Tarala said Central must embrace a team-first attitude for that to happen.
“I think the most successful teams are the closest teams, the ones that jell, mesh and build a family-like atmosphere,” he said. “We’ll be the most successful if these girls can know they have a responsibility to their teammates and their school and not to themselves.”