First-year Batavia coach Lupe Castellanos knew what he was getting into when he took over the Bulldogs’ program after the 2012 season.
Despite returning the bulk of a potent lineup that includes Dayton recruit Katie Ryan, Batavia lost its two best pitchers to graduation in Katie Coleman and Katie Neubauer.
Castellanos and the Bulldogs are learning just how important pitching can be as struggles in the circle have factored heavily into the team’s 2-11 start.
A quick glance at the Bulldogs’ pitching stats reveals a few telling culprits for the young Batavia staff’s struggles – walks and runs allowed.
Through Monday’s 9-4 loss to Geneva, Batavia pitchers have allowed 78 walks in 71 innings that has contributed to a 9.79 team ERA. The extra baserunners, coupled with 121 hits given up in 71 innings, would make life difficult for any offense.
Despite the inauspicious start for Batavia’s inexperienced pitching staff, featuring sophomore Allicia Mueller, junior Nicole Peercy and senior Ryan, Castellanos likes the progress his pitchers have been making, especially recently.
“Alicia has been doing the majority of the pitching and every time out she’s getting better and improving and has began to locate her pitches a lot better while throwing more strikes,” Castellanos said. “Early in the year she was struggling a little bit because pitching is not her main position but we were lacking depth so she stepped up and told me that she would do what’s best for the team.”
If the Batavia pitchers can right the ship, the Bulldog bats might have enough pop to help turn things around.
The meat of the Batavia order – Selena Kweder, Sami Villarreal and Ryan – are all hitting above .400, with Kweder leading the team at .517. Area teams have been cognizant of Ryan’s home run power, putting her on base eight times via the walk that has helped contribute to her .552 on-base percentage.
Even with the .300 team batting average, the struggle for Castellanos is trying to get as much out of his pitchers as possible.
“It’s kind of tough because it’s a learning process every time we go out there,” Castellanos said. “She’s (Mueller) learning how to pitch and learning how to compete because her main position isn’t really pitching. She’s kind of learning on the job, I guess you could say.”
Castellanos is still waiting for his team to play like it can for a full seven innings.
“I think we just haven’t put a full game together,” Castellanos said. “When our defense is playing good, we lack the offense. When the offense comes around, we struggle on defense. We just need to put a full game together, and the wins will come.”
In the shadow of St. Charles East’s hot start, Geneva quietly is in the midst of a hot streak of its own.
The Vikings entered play Tuesday 5-1 in their last six games with a trip to the Rolling Meadows Tournament championship game and a 14-0 rout of Larkin that was part of All-Foxes Day.
Every year, the Geneva softball program invites the Geneva Foxes travel softball program out to a game where the future Vikings can cheer on the current crop of Geneva players. The game is an extension of a broader friendship between the two programs that goes well beyond the field.
“Over the last couple of years, the Foxes have picked a day and they invite all of their players to come out and watch us play,” Geneva coach Greg Dierks said. “The other half of it is we set up pen pals between the girls on my team and the girls on the Foxes’ teams. So they write back and forth and talk about the games and whatever else. The attendance has been great and the girls get to meet each other take pictures together.”
Whatever the Foxes’ players wrote recently has rubbed off as Geneva blew away Larkin and breezed to the Rolling Meadows Tournament championship game with a 12-1 drubbing of Glenbrook South and a 5-1 win over McHenry. Bartlett clipped Geneva, 2-0, in the championship game to cap what was still an impressive week.
“Everything just sort of came together this week with great weather and the great day we had with the Foxes,” Dierks said. “Tournaments are fun to play in because it’s great bonding time. It was just a lot of positives kicking in this week.”
– Ian Matthews, email@example.com
What We Learned From Last Week
Geneva found its groove. A slow start to the year was precipitated by a lack of timely hitting. That came to an end last week as the Vikings sacked Larkin and Glenbrook South in run-rule affairs while getting by McHenry and Streamwood in tighter contests. The hot play continued Monday with a win over rival Batavia.
What We’ll Learn In the Week Ahead
All eyes will be on St. Charles East and its massive winning streak. The Saints’ winning streak stood at 16 entering Tuesday’s game against Geneva.
In the Groove
Geneva, So., OF
What she did: Keith homered and drove in five as Geneva blasted Glenbrook South, 12-1.
Rosary, Fr., P
What she did: The young Molenhouse struck out 12 in Rosary’s 11-2 win over Guerin. The win put the Royals over .500 in SCC play.
Coach Sly Sez
Sly ran out of fingers and moved onto toes as East’s streak now stands at 16. There are other teams that are on fire, too (Geneva, Burlington Central) but East is approaching pretty lofty territory. An early-season rainout may have placed added importance on Monday’s first meeting between East and North. If the Saints run the table this week, a win over North could make it a cool 20.