The start of the 2013 softball season became a battle against Mother Nature with teams struggling to find time to do much of anything outside. Local teams were finally able to take the field last week, with most schools getting at least three games in.
A pair of schools – St. Francis and Burlington Central – decided to hit the road for greener pastures to find competition. While the Rockets made modest downstate trips to Jacksonville and Peoria, St. Francis went a step further and flew to Orlando, Fla., for a week.
The Spartans enjoyed warm weather, sunshine and four convincing wins to start the season. Veteran Spartans’ coach Ralph Remus said the trip was a long time coming.
“We first started talking about doing this three or four years ago,” Remus said. “We finally decided to go this year and it was 14 girls and 15 parents. We’d never been down there before, so we listed ourselves as a small school when looking for games. The competition wasn’t as strong as the teams we see in the Suburban Christian Conference.”
Despite not being outside at all before hitting the field for its first game in Orlando, St. Francis had no trouble with the competition, scoring 10-plus runs in each of its four victories. Maggie Remus and Amanda Imbrogno split the games and dominated in the pitching circle.
Meanwhile, Central welcomed back coach Wade Maisto, who had previously guided the Rockets from 1984-1998. When former BC coach Cray Allen took the coaching job at Harper College last summer, Maisto stepped in and has helped the Rockets to a 4-1 start.
“We really needed to get outside to I could see what our players are capable of,” Maisto said. “We’re still in the feeling-out process, but so far so good.”
Morrow done for season
Just as Maisto was getting re-acclimated with coaching at BC, the Rockets took a big hit when sophomore ace Angie Morrow was lost for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a pinched nerve.
“Her nerve was getting pinched and it wasn’t getting any better, so they went in and cleaned up some stuff,” Maisto said. “They didn’t really find anything, but it’s still surgery which means she’ll miss eight weeks – which is basically the whole season.”
Losing Morrow, a Wisconsin commit, means the Rockets will rely on Brooke Gaylord and freshman Emily Kisch to pick up the slack in the circle.
“With Angie, it’s not just pitching but she does hit for us, too,” Maisto said. “We do have some depth, though, with Brooke and Kisch and we’ll be relying on them a lot more.”
In the Lupe
First-year coach Lupe Castellanos picked up his first win as Batavia coach when the Bulldogs scored six runs in the bottom of the seventh to stun West Chicago, 12-11, last week.
Dayton recruit Katie Ryan is off to a good start for Batavia, hitting .333 with a homer while also contributing for the Bulldogs in the circle.
Castellanos is looking forward to having his full roster together for the first time when Batavia welcomes regulars Sami Villarreal, Ryanne Rokos and Erin Costigan back to the lineup.
Each has been out for various reasons.
– Ian Matthews, email@example.com
What We Learned Last Week
Chronicle-area teams have the ability to score some runs. Each area team put a dent in the scoreboard with Batavia, St. Charles East and St. Francis each putting up 10-plus runs in wins last week. Pitching, as it usually does, will determine each squad’s success down the line.
What We’ll Learn In the Week Ahead
The conference slates begin in earnest with the Upstate Eight teams beginning their crossover games. If each of the teams can pitch well enough, it could be a sprint to the finish to see who can take the conference crown.
In the Groove
St. Charles East, Jr., P
What she did: Beno went 1-1 for St. Charles East in the circle last week, including a nine-inning complete game victory over West Aurora. Beno struck out 12 Blackhawks in the extra-inning victory before taking the tough-luck, 3-2 loss against West Chicago.
St. Francis offense
What the Spartans did: The weather wasn’t the only thing that was hot in Florida as the offense helped the Spartans put up 16, 14, 11 and 11 runs in four wins in Orlando last week. The Alyssas – Fernandez and Germanos – had hits in all four contests for St. Francis, which looks to have a great combination of hitting and pitching.
Coach Sly Sez
Sly likes what he sees so far in the early season. While no team is perfect, each area squad picked up a win during the first week of action.
Sly likes the variety, as each team seems to be finding its own formula for picking up W’s. Batavia might have to slug its way to victories this year while East and North have balanced lineups that could grind foes into the ground quickly. Whatever the case, Sly can’t wait for the conference races to heat up.