It may not be that surprising that both St. Charles schools are collectively off to quality starts to the season.
What might be surprising is who is leading each team's early-season success.
St. Charles North has nary a senior on its roster, relying on a solid junior class led by Northwestern-bound Sabrina Rabin.
A minor shin injury kept the junior out of the circle for North’s doubleheader loss to New Trier and Monday’s win against York. Despite the injury, Rabin has still played a nearly flawless center field while giving the North Stars a formidable bat at the top of the lineup.
Filling in for Rabin in the circle Monday was Katie Roggemann, who fired a complete game two-hitter in her first varsity start.
After a tough weekend against New Trier, the North Stars have been searching high and low for someone besides Rabin who can consistently pitch.
“We need to develop depth behind Sabrina in the circle,” North coach Tom Poulin said. “We liked what we saw out of Katie and what we saw defensively. We’re ecstatic with what we saw with Katie. It gives us a lot of confidence.”
Meanwhile, St. Charles East also has been relying heavily on younger players. While four-year varsity players Lexi Perez and Olivia Lorenzini are a stabilizing presence for East, it’s younger players such Olivia Cheatham, Alex Latoria, Katie Kolb and Kelly Rinker that have coach Kelly Horan excited.
“We’re young. We’re young,” Horan said. “You know, everybody says, ‘Coach, how are you going to be this season?’ and I say, ‘We’re going to be a lot better at the end than we are at the beginning.’ ”
That could be a scary thought for opposing teams as East is off to a 7-3 start to the year after taking down Naperville North, 6-1, on Monday.
Cheatham was 4 for 4 on the afternoon with two RBIs while Latoria went the distance in the circle, allowing just three hits. Latoria and junior right-hander Haley Beno have formed a solid pitching staff for East early on.
"It's good to see. It's nice to see the growth from pitchers year to year,” Horan said. “[Beno] got, like, half the season in as a freshman. Obviously was a big part of what we did last year, and her and Alex are battling to see who's going to be the woman this year."
State of success Since returning from a season-opening trip to Kentucky, Kaneland has yet to drop a game in Illinois after Monday’s 1-0 win over West Aurora. The Knights, off to a 7-1 start – including 4-0 in Illinois – have seen a little bit of everything early in the season.
Kaneland had little trouble with Batavia on Saturday, thrashing the Bulldogs, 17-1. The Knights had quite the contrasting game on Monday in squeaking by West Aurora.
The Knights’ early-season success can be tracked back to pitching, as Ellissa Eckert and Anissa Becker are picking up where graduated ace Delani Vest left off.
Eckert is 4-0 after the win over Batavia on Saturday and came in for Becker in Kaneland’s win over West Aurora Monday, giving up four hits while striking out four.
“She was good. She missed some of her spots, but when she missed, she missed down, so she didn’t get hurt,” Kaneland coach Brian Willis said. “We’re starting to get used to being outside a little bit.”
Crossover madness The Upstate Eight Conference River teams are taking turns with the Valley side of the conference as the crossover portion of the schedule is currently taking place.
Both the St. Charles schools swept Waubonsie Valley while Batavia lost big to the Warriors. Geneva will take on a tough South Elgin squad Friday. The Storm handed St. Charles North its first loss of the season last week.
IN THE GROOVE
Natalie Erbe, Geneva, Sr., P
What she did: Erbe helped Geneva take down East Aurora, 16-1, last week with a complete-game shutout of the Tomcats. The senior went all five innings, allowing just one hit to help the Vikings pick up their first Upstate Eight Conference win.
Sabrina Rabin, St. Charles North, Jr., P/CF
What she did: The Northwestern-bound Rabin had quite the week in the batter's box for the North Stars. Battling a shin injury, the junior had three hits each against Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley and Wheaton Warrenville South.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK Kaneland, St. Francis and Burlington Central all remained hot to start the year. Each team has only one loss on the season and is relying on stout pitching. Ellissa Eckert is 4-0 for Kaneland, while Brooke Gaylord is picking up the slack for the injured Angie Morrow at Central.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD Whether or not Batavia can get back on track after a rough start. The Bulldogs were throttled by Waubonsie Valley (15-0) and Kaneland (17-1) last week and are having a tough time manufacturing runs. Batavia, which managed just one hit against Waubonsie Valley, has games against South Elgin, Bartlett, Metea Valley and East Aurora this week.
Coach Sly Says Save for a few senior mainstays, Sly is impressed with the youth movement that has taken over the area softball landscape. The youngsters are helping both St. Charles schools get off to fast starts, while Geneva has a great young double-play combination in Anna Geary and Haley Orwig. Sly is looking forward to seeing if Burlington Central, St. Francis and Kaneland can keep up their hot starts into conference play.