Considering that six seniors in the starting lineup for the Minooka softball team this spring are going on to play ball at the collegiate level, and the fact that the Indians just won a Class 4A state championship this past spring, it should come as little surprise that the Indians dominate this year’s Morris Daily Herald All-Area Softball team this time around.
Morris Daily Herald All-Area MVP Sara Novak is going to play ball in the Big Ten for the University of Wisconsin, Jackie Lilek for the University of North Dakota, Rachel May the University of Illinois-Chicago, Kelli Holstine Benedictine University, Mikayla Melone to Elmhurst College and Kelsey Smith to Parkland College. On top of that, of the three other juniors in the Minooka starting lineup, none batted less than .289 this spring, and No. 9 hitter Jordyn Larsen probably would have been the No. 3 hitter on any other team in the area.
Eight starters from the Indians team this year are deserving of selections and they head the field of 25 players that we at the MDH are trotting out this season.
Nicole Pihl, Seneca
Senior Pitcher/First Baseman
Pihl made a serious run at being a three-time All-Area MVP after winning it both her sophomore and junior seasons. Only a phenomenal run by the Indians and the efforts of Sara Novak prevented it her senior year.
Still, the DePaul-bound Pihl is without question one of the best players in our area. She retires her Lady Irish jersey with the second most home runs ever in a high school career with 53, which includes a 19-home run season when she was a junior. That is the fourth-highest single-season total ever. Pihl also ended with 222 runs batted in, which is fourth-best in IHSA history and just seven behind the all-time leader. Her 79 RBI in 2011 is the fourth-best single-season mark of all time.
“In addition to all the records and accolades, you won’t find a better person on a softball diamond,” Seneca coach Dan Stecken said. “If you could bottle Nicole’s love and enthusiasm for this game, and give that energy to every young kid who wants to be great at softball, you would have something special. She’s been a joy to coach and we will miss her dearly.”
This year she hit .576 with 17 doubles, 11 home runs and 42 RBI. She walked 45 times and produced a .705 on-base percentage. As a pitcher, Pihl was 16-6 with a 2.23 ERA in 157 innings.
Jackie Lilek, Minooka
Senior Pitcher/Third Baseman
Lilek was voted her team’s MVP this season, and according to Minooka coach Mark Brown, it was for good reason.
“Jackie was the ace on a great pitching staff,” he said. “Solid year in the circle all year long, including the playoff run. She hit a huge grand-slam in Lockport in the comeback win. A true leader on the softball field.”
As a pitcher, Lilek was 13-3 this year with a 1.95 ERA. In 97 innings, she allowed 82 hits while walking 37 and striking out 79.
As a batter, Lilek hit .337 with 22 runs scored and 25 RBI. She had two doubles, three triples and three home runs.
Emily Aichele, Coal City
Aichele threw and area-high 194 innings and also recorded an area-high 29 wins.
“Emily stepped up tremendously this year,” Coal City coach Stephanie Harmon said. “Emily did not pitch much last year but was our No. 1 pitcher this year. She was consistent and did a great job of hitting her spots and keeping runners off the bases.”
Erica Gualandi, Morris
Gualandi was right behind Aichele in innings pitched at 184. She finished with a 3.46 ERA, but did better work at the plate. As a batter, Gualandi played in all 30 games for the Redskins, getting 30 hits in 89 at-bats for a .337 batting average and had 14 RBI and five doubles.
“Erica was able to pitch us out of a lot of tight situations,” Morris coach Jen Lowery said. “She had the ability to bear down in tight situations, hit her spots and effectively changed speeds to get us out of innings. At the plate, Erica was big with runners in scoring position.”
Emily Foley, GSW
Foley got the job done for the Panthers as both a pitcher and a batter. She went 12-4 in the circle with a 3.22 ERA while batting .458 with 12 doubles and nine triples. She had 35 runs scored and 26 RBI.
“In the postseason, Emily posted a 1.18 ERA in 30 innings. She struck out 36 and walked four. She had an excellent sophomore season,” GSW coach Jon Posing said. “She’s a great all-around player.”
Gabby Bonic, Coal City
Bonic had 36 RBI this year while batting. 420, including 10 doubles and seven home runs for an OPS of 1.277.
“Gabby did a great job behind the plate and was a great leader,” Harmon said.
Kelsey Smith, Minooka
A left-handed catcher is something you don’t see every day, but Smith filled the role quite well. She batted .437 with six doubles and a home run. She drove in 14.
“Kelsey is such a tough girl. She played through injuries all year,” Brown said. “She was the catcher for a great pitching staff who did work on both sides of the ball this season.”
Maranda Residori, GSW
Residori hit an even .500 this year with 18 doubles, three triples and two home runs and knocked in 34.
“Maranda has obviously had an unbelievable freshman year. She was our catchers and No. 5 hitter all year,” Posing said. “She has come up with a bunch of big hits all year. It will be nice to pencil her into the lineup for the next three years.”
Mikayla Melone, Minooka
Senior First Baseman
Melone batted .340 for the Indians with six doubles and a homer. She knocked in 19 and scored 13 times.
“She’s a three-year varsity starter and she played an incredible first base all year,” Brown said. “She came up with some clutch hits in the playoffs, including a three-run triple against Lincoln-Way East. She was a captain and her leadership will be missed.”
Laney Torkelson, Morris
Senior First Baseman
Torkelson had 29 hits in 87 at-bats for a .333 average. She led Morris with 18 RBI and was second to Maddy Feeney with 14 runs scored. She hit six doubles, two triples and two home runs and also drew 14 walks.
“Laney’s presence at the plate could be a game-changer at any moment,” Lowery said. “Defensively, her ability to stretch out at first and dig a ball out of the dirt won us a lot of close plays.”
Becca Bernardy, GSW
Senior First Baseman
Bernardy ended with the highest batting average in the area this spring by rapping out 51 hits in 86 at-bats for a .593 average. She had 12 doubles, three triples and three home runs for a .930 slugging percentage. She knocked in 37 and scored 39 times.
“Becca was 13-for-18 in the postseason with 13 RBI and eight runs scored,” Posing said. “She had a terrific year. She pounded the ball all season and hasn’t slumped the slightest bit.”
Marissa Burns, Minooka
Junior Second Baseman
Burns batted .340 in the two hole for the Indians. She had eight doubles and while scoring 16 runs and knocking in 15.
“A great second baseman with incredible range in the field,” Brown said. “One of the best bunters in the state and she can also hit for power. An impact player.”
Chelsie McCormick, Seneca
Senior Second Baseman/Catcher
Stecken calls McCormick a “grindy, hard-nosed player” for her ability to work her way on base. This past season McCormick hit .350 in 100 at-bats. Her 24 runs scored were third best on the Irish behind Pihl (41) and Radtke (31). She had an OPS of .886 despite hitting just six extra-base hits. She also had 13 sacrifice bunts and stole 21 bases.
“Chelsie is one of the most aggressive base runners I have ever coached,” Stecken said. “She is a terror on the base paths … she is the type of glue player that every great team needs, doing the little things that makes others around her and the team successful.”
Sara Novak, Minooka
As a pitcher, Novak went 8-4 with a 2.92 ERA this year. In 90 2/3 innings, she allowed 75 hits and 34 walks while striking out 133. At the plate, she batted .427 over 110 at-bats. That included five doubles, a triple and seven home runs. She scored 30 runs and batted in 27.
She retires with four Minooka team records under her belt.
Sophie Barna, GSW
Barna batted .429 with eight doubles and three triples. She scored 23 runs and knocked in 31.
“Another one with an excellent sophomore season,” Posing said. “She hit well for us all year in the sixth spot and drove in a lot of runs from there.”
Sarah Radtke, Seneca
Junior Third Baseman
One of the best pure sluggers in the area, Radtke batted .490 this past spring in 104 at-bats. She had 16 doubles, three triples and four home runs while knocking in 36. Her 1.391 OPS was second only to teammate Pihl’s 1.825 this year.
“There can’t be a more improved player in the area this season from last,” Stecken said. “Sarah asserted herself this season, protecting Nicole in the lineup. So many teams chose to walk Nicole and many of them paid for it with Sara’s lethal gap-shot line drives. Most of her doubles were laser beams that either hit the fence or one-hopped it. She can pound the ball.”
Rachel May, Minooka
Senior Third Baseman/Shortstop
May batted .350 with eight doubles, two triples and two homers from the leadoff spot. She scored 23 runs and knocked in 19.
“Rachel played a huge role all season long,” Brown said. “She was a team captain and played like it. She was almost perfect on the left side of the infield and also came up with huge hit after huge hit, including the game-ending walk off in the state final game.”
Abby Horrie, GSW
Senior Third Baseman
Horrie hit .337 with 34 runs scored and knocked in 19. She boasted a .424 on-base percentage while adding eight doubles, two triples and two home runs. Inside the circle, she had an 8-3 record.
“She had a very good senior season,” Posing said. “She’s our team leader and a vocal leader.”
Jordyn Larsen, Minooka
The ball just explodes off her bat. She batted .359 with seven doubles, two triple and three home runs, knocked in 22 and scored 23.
“She’s one of the best center fielders in the state who can hit for average and power,” Brown said. “Was our spark plug all year and came back strong after a tough face injury.”
Lexi Posing, GSW
Another one who flourished in the postseason for the Panthers (13-for-18, 8 RBI 11 runs). Overall, Posing hit .475 with 34 runs scored and 21 RBI. She also dropped 11 sacrifice bunts and stole nine bases.
“She also had an excellent sophomore season. She’s been terrific for us in the two-spot all year,” Jon Posing said. “She’s an excellent bunter and a team player.
Maddy Feeney, Morris
Feeney led Morris in plate appearances (115), at-bats (104), hits (36), runs scored (17) and stolen bases (11) this spring. She batted a team-high .346.
“Her speed and triple-threat at the plate made it difficult for a lot of teams to play her successfully,” Lowery said. “Maddy was smart on the base paths and an offensive threat in every game.”
Erin Hovious, Seneca
Hovious put down an area-high 16 sacrifice bunts this year while batting .338. She scored 21 runs and knocked in 14.
“Erin worked hard to improve this season and did it,” Stecken said. “She hit over .300 and played a great center field for us. It’s always great for a coach to see a kid work hard to improve, and that’s exactly what she did.”
Madison Giordano, Coal City
Giordano hit .348 this spring with an OPS of .802, thanks mainly to an OBP of .408 in 109 at-bats. She had three doubles and knocked in 16 while scoring 28 times.
“She was our leadoff batter and she did a great job with transitioning to the left side,” Harmon said. “She was my starting center fielder and did a great job with leading the outfield.”
Kelli Holstine, Minooka
Holstine batted .356 in the eight hole for Minooka. She scored 17 runs and knocked in 12.
“She is pure hustle and heart. She pushes herself and her teammates to get better daily,” Brown said. “Leaves it all out on the field and is a great role model for the younger players.”
Hannah Boresi, Coal City
Senior Designated Player
Boresi hit .333 over 109 at-bats. She had four doubles, two triples and was second behind Bonic on the Coalers with 22 RBI.
“Hannah did a great job at DH this year,” Harmon said. “She was put in crucial situations and always came through for us.”
Coal City: Makenna Emerson. GSW: Paige Lardi, Ally Matthews. Minooka: Caroline Brown. Morris: Lauren Severson, Taya Torkelson. Seneca: Kayla Haines, Lexi Trompeter.