Offensive expectations have remained steady for Rosary’s softball team even as the Royals’ bats waver.
A group that has been shut out seven times entering this week’s Class 3A Rosary Regional spots its inconsistencies. It’s the right step toward the ultimate goal of improving at following the ball.
“We’ve seen a lot of different speeds day after day,” senior Cara Smoczynski said. “Sometimes we struggle with the slower pitchers, but I’m hoping we can adjust to whoever we see.”
The Royals’ attack starts off well enough. Freshman leadoff hitter Emma Molenhouse – a Batavia resident – brought a .329 average into the final weekend of the regular season, as well as budding leadership skills.
Fellow top-of-the-order threats Smoczynski (.360) and infielder Samantha Phelps (.321) appreciate Molenhouse’s chatter and quick scouting reports after the Royals’ first at-bat.
“Travel season has prepared me definitely for high school and vice-versa,” Molenhouse said. “Toward the first game, I remember I was pretty nervous over the adjustment. I think by the third or fourth game, I was comfortable batting.”
The numbers show the Royals share that experience as a whole.
Rosary’s team batting average has hovered around .300 all season, and stood at .289 before the Royals suffered a doubleheader sweep Saturday at top regional seed Kaneland.
Timely hitting has been of greatest concern. While the Royals know they can hit – see: A 21-0 drubbing of IMSA last week – the key is to repeat it in key spots against sturdy competition.
The Royals finished 7-8 in Suburban Christian Conference Blue play, including two shutout losses to St. Francis by a combined score of 17-0.
After contending with inconsistent weather for much of the spring, Rosary has played eight games in the past 11 days.
It took Rosary eight days to play its season opener after a series of postponements, and the team promptly scored a combined 26 runs while splitting its first two games.
“The more cuts you take, the more muscle memory you get used to,” Phelps said. “You see the ball better when you take more cuts, too.”
Rosary, which has made consistent strides under fourth-year coach John Kazmierczak, hopes the opposite of the muscle memory theory works against its regional semifinal opponent, Plano.
The Reapers jumped from 2A to 3A this season, and Kazmierczak can’t recall any recent nonconference meetings between the schools.
“When we do hit the ball, we normally are [at] eight hits or more in a game, and that should win you a ballgame,” Kazmierczak said.
Beginning this week, Rosary hopes to count on consistency more than it has at any time this spring.
IHSA Class 4A Glenbard West Regional
(1) St. Charles East vs. (17) Hoffman Estates, 4:30 p.m.
IHSA Class 4A St. Charles North Regional
(3) St. Charles North vs. (19) Larkin / (14) West Chicago, 4:30 p.m.
IHSA Class 4A Bartlett Regional
(4) Lake Park vs. (13) Geneva, 4:30 p.m.
IHSA Class 3A Rosary Regional
(1) Kaneland vs. (5) IMSA/ (4) Sandwich, 4 p.m.
(2) Rosary vs. (3) Plano, 4:30 p.m.
IHSA Class 3A Sycamore Regional
(1) Burlington Central vs. (4) Sycamore, 4:30 p.m.
IHSA Class 3A St. Francis Regional
(3) St. Francis vs. (19) Noble Street Charter, 4:30 p.m.
Class 3A Payton Regional
(8) Wheaton Academy vs. (9) Jones, 4:30 p.m.
Best first-round matchup: Wheaton Academy vs. Jones at 3A Payton Regional. The Warriors shook off a rough start and are averaging 9.8 runs per game over their last 10 contests. Games against Chicago Public League foes often equate to the great unknown, but a traveling attack can't hurt.
Best potential regional final: St. Charles North vs. South Elgin at 4A St. Charles North Regional. While the Storm have scuffled of late, their run of early-season victories included wins against St. Charles East and North in the first week of April. North has matured and scored its own share of victories – including the first against Naperville Central this season – since South Elgin pitcher Paige Allen rattled North.
Best bet to win a regional: Kaneland at 3A Rosary Regional. The top-seeded Knights enter the postseason with a strong core of returners from last season's sectional team. They also boast recent success against the next-seeded team. Kaneland swept visiting Rosary, 10-3 and 16-6, in a doubleheader Saturday.
Potential dark horse: Geneva navigated the ups and downs of a .500 regular season, including the early lumps of lopsided losses against Lake Park and Bartlett. The Vikings would have to defeat the Lancers to create a possible meeting with the host Hawks, but don't they feel inferior with a veteran lineup featuring four-year starters in Bridget Weitzel and Kirsten Searcy.