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Prep Zone

Schwab: East softball’s Kolb back in business

St. Charles East softball outfielder Katie Kolb played through agonizing back pain as a sophomore but was determined to remain in the Saints’ lineup.

“Coming off freshman year, I didn’t want to miss sophomore year – we just came off getting second in state [as a freshman], so obviously it was an exciting time,” Kolb said. “But it was definitely frustrating. I wasn’t playing to the ability I know I could play at.”

Once the season ended, Kolb found out why. An MRI revealed a severe stress fracture in her lower back, prompting a mandated four months of rest and physical therapy.

Kolb fretted that being sidelined during the summer, travel season would dent her recruiting outlook, but on Sunday, the left-handed hitting junior lined up a college softball future by verbally committing to Winona State, a Division II program in Minnesota.

Kolb watched Winona State compete last weekend at an indoor tournament in Rosemont, and came away enthused with the team – including St. Charles East product Lexi Perez, who projects to be a Winona senior when Kolb is a freshman. That was the age spread at East, too, when both players started on the Saints’ 2013 IHSA Class 4A runners-up. 

Reuniting with Perez adds to the appeal of Winona, an intense and upbeat team with a quality coaching staff, Kolb said.

“When I [joined the team] my freshman year, [Perez] was very welcoming, very sweet, and when I ended up behind her when she played shortstop and I played left field. … We always had each other’s back,” Kolb said. “I knew she would do anything for me and I would do anything for her, so it was really cool.”

Kolb said it was “really, really hard” to miss the summer with her back injury given her zeal for softball. Her back still isn’t 100 percent and she’s seeing a chiropractor twice a week, but Kolb said she’s feeling much better than she did at the tail end of last season.

Kolb is the lone returning, starting outfielder this spring for an East team that has a pair of D-I Evansville recruits to help lead the way in infielders Alex Latoria and Olivia Cheatham. Kolb looks forward to a banner season now that her back is – for the most part – cooperating.

“I’m hoping,” Kolb said. “I’ve been working really hard. I’d say I’m at 80 to 90 percent on the healing process so it’s definitely better than where I was my sophomore year, and sophomore year I could literally only do so much without being in excruciating pain, so junior year I’m looking forward to having another good year and looking forward to spending one more year with Alex Latoria and Olivia Cheatham before they go on to college.”

Conference finales tonight: Each of the Tri-Cities boys basketball teams will close their conference seasons tonight, headlined by Geneva’s visit to Larkin.

The Vikings (25-2, 12-1 Upstate Eight Conference River) will take the conference outright if they win at Larkin or St. Charles East stumbles at Elgin. An East win and Geneva loss would create a tie between the Saints and Vikings for the River championship.

Although Larkin – which features a formidable frontcourt combo of Christian Negron and Daniel McFadden – arguably matches up with Geneva’s size better than any other team in the conference, the Vikings handled the Royals, 57-45, when the teams met in Geneva last month. Geneva rides a 16-game winning streak into tonight’s rematch.

Elsewhere tonight, St. Charles North plays host to Batavia as the Bulldogs seek their first conference win over an upper-half team. North needed overtime to win the teams’ first meeting in Batavia.

Not adding up: The past few weeks have reinforced that it’s sound practice for basketball coaches to delegate the task of making sure his or her team is not being shortchanged on the scoreboard.

In February alone, I’ve been to three high school games in which the scoreboard operator has lost track of a team’s point total without being corrected, and one of those instances might have had an impact on the outcome of the game.

Clearly some scoreboard operators need to do a better job of remaining alert throughout a game, but teams also ought to proactively protect their interests. Whether it’s an assistant coach, a statistician or some other support staff member, someone should be assigned the simple but important task of making sure the scoreboard is accurate.

• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or jschwab@shawmedia.com.

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