Saints coach keeping open mind
Monday's opening day lineup couldn't have produced much better for St. Charles East coach Kelly Horan, but Horan promised to give her entire roster a chance to earn spots as the spring unfolds.
"This is our first rotation," Horan said after the Saints clubbed Burlington Central, 14-4, in five innings. "Who knows where these kids will end up? I know I have 13 good ballplayers, and they're all going to get an opportunity here in the early-season games."
The first six batters in Horan's opening-day lineup – Tess Hupe, Olivia Cheatham, Sarah Collalti, Kate Peterburs, Alex Latoria and Katie Kolb – each were fixtures in the Saints lineup when East finished second in Class 4A last year.
The new-look, bottom third of East's lineup also was productive Monday. Senior Mackenzie Lofgren was the Saints' designated player, going 1-for-2 with two RBIs and a walk, while sophomore second baseman Kelly Rinker had a hit and an RBI in the No. 8 hole and senior pitcher Haley Beno batted ninth, notching an RBI single in the third inning.
Beno saw some at-bats last season but focused on her pitching duties in the later stages of the season.
Horan said East's other players – including senior Mackenzie Meadows, who started at catcher but did not hit Monday – will also have their turns to make a case for playing time as Horan evaluates her options leading up to conference play.
"It was fun to see kind of our first try at this, and gosh, it was kind of a nice balance, righty-lefty-righty-lefty, power and speed," Horan said. "But nothing to write home about yet. It was just the first game. We're going to keep rotating kids through at the beginning of the year here."
Youth movement up middle for Knights
Kaneland coach Brian Willis isn't ready to commit to it, but it's a legitimate possibility that the Knights' middle infield will consist of a pair of freshmen as the season progresses.
That wasn't the original plan but senior second baseman Allie Miller suffered a recent groin injury during practice and figures to be out at least two months, Willis said.
Among the Plan B options at second base, Willis said freshman Rachel Goress is a leading contender. Fellow freshman Morgan Weber is likely to see most of the time at shortstop, though Youngstown State recruit Lexi Roach – a senior outfielder – also is an option at shortstop if need be.
While relying on freshmen in the middle infield might not be ideal, Willis said Goress and Weber have the talent to grow into quality players.
"They'll go through some growing pains but they should be OK," Willis said.
Roach is on a spring break trip to Europe and Weber missed the season's first two games with a minor injury, making for some makeshift lineups for the Knights so far. Kaneland (3-0) is taking a spring break trip to Tennessee, where the Knights will play their first outdoor games of the season Friday after playing their first three games at indoor venues.
Rockets take their chances
Burlington Central saw rallies hampered on multiple occasions during Monday's loss to St. Charles East when runners were thrown out trying to take an extra base, but Rockets coach Wade Maisto endorsed the aggressive baserunning.
"We don't want to stop that philosophy," Maisto said. "So if I make some mistakes in March and April that we have to tone back a little bit, that's fine. But I want us looking to take the extra base. The couple outs we had trying to take the extra base, that's on me, because that's what I want us to do."
Maisto credited East's defense with making solid throws during the Saints' 14-4 win. Collalti made a strong throw from left field to cut down a Rockets runner at third base to end the top of the fifth.
"Teams don't always make the plays like St. Charles," Maisto said. "They made us look bad today, you can always second guess, but I don't second guess the philosophy. We're going to try and stay aggressive on the basepaths, and if things like this happen, then things like this happen."
IN THE GROOVE
St. Charles East lineup
What the Saints did: East's offense erupted from top to bottom in Monday's season opener, producing five extra base hits among 14 hits overall in a 14-4, five-inning win against Burlington Central. Each of the Saints' nine starters had at least one hit.
Angie Morrow, Kaneland, Jr., P
What she did: Morrow threw a one-hitter Monday against Batavia as the Knights topped the Bulldogs, 4-0.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
Local teams are enjoying the great indoors.
Kaneland and Wheaton Academy are among the area teams that have seen early success playing at indoor venues, which is becoming an increasingly popular way for teams to ease into the season until field conditions come around.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Whether St. Charles North can start its season as impressively as its crosstown rival.
North, which, like East, is expected to be a powerhouse this spring, is scheduled to play three games this week, beginning with its season opener today at Plainfield Central. A home game against Schuamburg on Wednesday and an indoor game against Montini on Friday at the Rosemont Sports Dome also are on the slate.
COACH SLY SAYS
Alright, so we know teams like St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Kaneland and Burlington Central are going to win a ton of games this year.
All of those teams have the talent to win 25 to 30 games or more, and it'll be fun to see those seasons take shape. But Sly wants to know what under-the-radar teams might rise up this spring?
Is there an overlooked team capable of surprising people, maybe a team like Geneva or Rosary or ACC? Heck, the Chargers sure caught people off guard last postseason, but playing in 3A instead of 2A this year, it'll take some doing for ACC to come out of the woodwork again.