After losing 3-2 in the Class 4A state semifinals and then taking third place last season, hopes are understandably high for Joliet West's softball team this season.
Coach Heather Suca's Tigers went 26-14 a year ago and won the program's first sectional championship since 1978, and it was first time that a JT softball team advanced to state since the Joliet Township co-op team won the Class AA title in 2000.
Junior pitcher Savannah Fierke had 19 wins, a 1.03 ERA and 276 strikeouts and hit .322 with five home runs and 26 RBIs last season to earn Herald-News Player of the Year award.
Senior outfielder and pitcher Taylor Durak hit .364 with 25 RBIs and six home runs, senior shortstop Lauren Russell hit .339 with a team-high 28 RBIs, junior outfielder Lanie Chizmark hit .269 with 23 RBIs and junior second baseman and catcher Alex Hughes drove in 21 runs.
Knights look strong again
Lincoln-Way Central was the No.1 seed in a Class 4A sectional but lost 2-0 to Joliet West in the semifinals to finish 32-3. Coach Jeff Tarala's team went 12-0 to win the SouthWest Suburban Conference Red title, and he has eight returning starters this year.
Top returning players include senior shortstop and first baseman Torince Muczynski, who hit .366 with 30 RBIs; senior pitcher Olivia Flinn, who went 5-1 with a 1.28 ERA; senior shortstop and catcher Sydney Grein, who had a .333 average with 19 RBIs; junior third baseman Carly Alvers, who hit .475 with 42 RBIs and had seven homers; and sophomore pitcher and infielder Lyndsey Grein, who went 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA.
JCA could be force in 2A
Joliet Catholic Academy, which competed in Class 3A a year ago will be in 2A this season. The Angels dropped a one-run game in the sectional semifinals to Bishop McNamara, which wound up finishing in fourth place at state.
Coach Tina Kinsella's Angels went 25-9 last year and return several key players. They include senior Annie Nudera, a returning three-year varsity starter who will play on the left side of the infield; junior pitcher Andie Broniewicz, who went 9-2 a year ago; and junior catcher Jolee Santiago. Other seniors on the team are Nicole Arnold and Jocelyn Reyes.