By Lanie Callaghan, Editor
Varsity softball stormed through the first round of conference undefeated and is heading into regionals with a perfect league record.
“We had a tough road to start with, starting with [a game against] the state champs from last year, but we really buckled down in practice and fixed what needed fixing and have been on fire since,” senior pitcher Alexis Villarreal said.
After a rocky start losing three games in a row, the team corrected their mistakes and have done the job since, with a record of 24-5 at press dead, one of the best records in recent school history.
“The team has been working really hard this year, and it shows on the field with our record,” Coach Brian Willis said.
This year’s team has cleaned up the defense and have an 17-game winning streak as of May 9.
“A positive attitude brings a positive outcome, and that’s exactly what we have been doing so far this season,” Villarreal said.
Key players include freshman Paige Kuefler and junior Allyson O’Herron, who has been on varsity since her freshman year. Willis said both girls bring a solid offensive game to the table. Kuefler, the only freshman on the team, has performed “great” in the three-spot and scores key runs in pressure situations, he said.
“Our offense has been a little bit stronger than defense, but it is pretty even between the two,” Willis said.
Some of the sweetest victories came when the Knights broke losing streaks. The team hadn’t beaten Yorkville in three years, but defeated them 8-1 on May 10.
For two years in a row, Sycamore knocked Kaneland out of regionals, but the team beat them twice this year, including a convincing 10-1 victory on May 3, with Villarreal’s tight pitching ending the game in just five innings.
On May 8, the Lady Knights beat the Rochelle Hubs 12-1 to clinch the conference title, and the team remains unbeaten in the NIB12 East Division.
Willis said the players are really gelling as a team.
“We have stayed focused in practice and especially games, but we do have fun and make our jokes when the time is right,” Willis said.
Regionals this year will be tough with opponents Yorkville, Sandwich, IMSA and Rosary; all regional games will be held at the IMSA softball fields.