Posted Online: March 13, 2012, 8:49 pm
Titans on the rise as power to reckon with in LTC softball
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By Terry Duckett, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last spring, the Annawan-Wethersfield softball team made itself known as a potential force to reckon with.
Photo: Clark Brooks / PhotoNews|
United Red Storm's Megan Patterson scores a run in the fourth inning after sliding to home plate in the Class 1A title game against Danville's Schlarman High School. The Red Storm shutout the Hilltoppers 6-0 to win this year's Class 1A softball championship title game.
Photo: Clark Brooks / PhotoNews|
United's Katie Kaywood, Katie Bertelsen and members of the Red Storm softball team hoist their Class 1A championship trophy for fans after winning the title game against Danville's Schlarman High School, 6-0 on Saturday in East Peoria.
Capping off the seven-year-old co-op's most successful season with a 20-13 record and their first Class 1A regional championship, the Titans now look to continue their rise by becoming the team to take the place of reigning 1A state champion United in the Lincoln Trail Conference hierarchy.
Buoying A-W's hopes is a strong returning nucleus featuring senior third baseman Erin Draminski (.438, 11 doubles, seven triples, 27 RBIs) and the sophomore battery of pitcher Megan Foes (20-13 record; .487 average with 12 doubles) and catcher Celina VanHyfte (.611, 16 doubles, 12 home runs, 62 RBIs, 57 runs).
"With the bar set where it's at now, we definitely want to improve on our win total and at least our standing in the LTC,'' said Annawan-Wethersfield coach Jeremy Trill. "The LTC's a good softball conference that's come a long way in the last three years, and we've seen what the postseason can be if we play well in the conference.
"I think we can be competitive, especially since that when our (LTC) schedule rolls around, we'll have had a lot of games under our belt. Once we get our infield and outfield set, that should bode well for us.''
However, plenty of obstacles lay between the Titans and their pursuit of a conference title, including reigning co-champions United and ROWVA.
The Red Storm (29-4) lost many key performers from last year's championship team, including top hitters Gina Long and Augusta Chandler, but especially record-setting pitching ace Katie Bertelsen, the state's all-time strikeout and shutout queen.
However, such returning veterans as senior Megan Patterson (.510, 14 extra-base hits, 28 RBIs, 40 runs) will provide continuity as the Red Storm move into a new era after a four-year run that included two state runner-up finishes and a third-place trophy.
"We've still got decent experience, although not quite like we had before,'' said United coach Gary Eyler. "One thing we've done very well at already is accepting the young kids and trying to bring them into what we do. They've got a lot to prove, because people think because we lost so much, we're not going to do very well.
"If we can put things together, I think we're going to surprise some people.''
Winners of 24 games last spring, ROWVA returns one of its pitching aces in Megan Foglesong. Other teams to watch in the race include reigning 1A regional champs Princeville and Stark County, the latter buoyed by the duo of pitchers Alex Nusz and Elizabeth Hippen.
Both Galva-Williamsfield (7-21) and Ridgewood (10-16) have new coaches, with Darrin Peterson taking over a Lady Cat squad that returns eight letterwinners and Kevin Coffee succeeding Lyndsey Jackson with the Spartans, who lost several standouts to graduation.
"We're looking at things with the perspective that every year is a new year,'' said Coffee. "Even if you won state last year, that doesn't help you this season; you've still got to prove yourself all over again.''
Mercer County (8-24) is also under new direction as 2007 Aledo High School graduate Cassidy Staker takes over on a full-time basis, having served as an interim coach last spring when Daryl Bewley was sidelined by health issues.
With 10 returning letterwinners, including junior shortstop Morgan Weeks (.348, 13 doubles, 28 RBIs), Staker hopes to use last year's experience to help lead the Golden Eagles back on the upswing.
"They're definitely more familiar with the way I coach and what I expect, and the drills we do,'' she said. "We only graduated two seniors, so it's also nice in that I spent a lot of time with them last year, and having nearly all of them back. We hope to use that experience to our advantage.''
2012 LINCOLN TRAIL CONFERENCE SOFTBALL CAPSULES
- Coach: Jeremy Trill (7th year with A-W co-op; 10 years overall).
- 2011: 20-13 (10-8 LTC); Class 1A regional champions.
- Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Erin Draminski (3B), Kylee Conlin (1B). Jrs.: Caitlin Miller (OF), Alysha Winn (2B), Sam Brody (OF), Emillie Wright (OF). Soph.: Megan Foes (P), Celina VanHyfte (C).
- Newcomers -- Srs.: Taylor Garcia (IF), Claire Pillen (OF). Fr.: Rachel Peterson (IF), Kayla Dunfee (P/IF).
Galva-Williamsfield Lady Cats
- Coach: Darrin Peterson (1st year).
- 2011: 7-21 (3-15 LTC).
- Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Tayler Stewart (C), Rachel Moore (P/1B). Jrs.: Nicole Withrow (SS), Samantha Josephson (3B/P). Soph.: Emma Corkill (P/1B), Lindsay Franzoni (2B), Lacy Peterson (LF), Melanie Edmonds (CF).
- Newcomers -- Soph.: Lindsey Batchelder (IF/OF), Briana Kazubowski (Utility). Fr.: Rachel VanDeVelde (RF), Allison Hagerty (Utility).
Mercer County Golden Eagles
- Coach: Cassidy Staker (1st year).
- 2011: 8-24 (5-13 LTC).
- Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Karly Matlick (2B), Taylor Bennett (OF), C.J. Milewski (3B), Crystal Lantau (OF). Jrs.: Bree Weeks (OF), Morgan Weeks (SS), Kimi Nelson (OF), Jordan Ruh (3B). Soph.: Jessica Brooks (C), Michaela Baker (P).
- Newcomers -- Jrs.: Brooke Swanson (1B), Emily Eckert (OF, transfer from Rock Island).
- Coach: Kevin Coffee (1st year).
- 2011: 10-16 (6-12 LTC).
- Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Hailee Barham (IF), Morgyn Britt (IF), Jazmine Toribio (OF).
United Red Storm
- Coach: Gary Eyler (8th year).
- 2011: 29-4 (16-2 LTC); conference co-champs, Class 1A regional, sectional, super-sectional and state champions.
- Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Megan Patterson (C/IF), Amy Olson (P/IF), Kelsey Crain (1B), Lexi Perry (Utility). Jrs.: Michelle Ravel (SS), Cassandra Ellison (CF), Alyson Keeney (OF). Soph.: Brea Simkins (Utility).
- Newcomers -- Jrs.: Meghan Perkins (OF), Gretchen Simpson (Utility). Fr.: Maddie Ballard (2B/3B), Abbey French (C).