Balch’s return gives Evanston a boost

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Anna Balch is having an outstanding start to the Evanston softball season, posting a 1.571 slugging percentage in the Wildkits’ first four games.

Her impressive power numbers show just how much the Wildkits missed her last year.

Balch was a sophomore on Evanston’s varsity team two years ago and then she decided to live with her dad in Gurnee after the softball season.

“I was just looking for a change,” Balch said.

However, the decision had one negative: She left her Wildkits teammates.

“It was difficult,” said Balch, who enrolled at Warren and played softball for the Blue Devils. “(My teammates and I) all had a special bond. Every team does, but that one was special.

“It was especially tough to tell Coach (Kristen) Proffitt because we had a really good relationship. What was nice, though, was that they were really supportive.”

Despite switching schools, it didn’t stop Balch from visiting her roots in Evanston. Proffitt said she was impressed to see her former third baseman in the stands cheering on her old teammates.

“She was always a Wildkit at heart,” Proffitt said.

Balch said the move to Gurnee ended up not working out and she decided to come back to Evanston to live with her mom — a decision that thrilled her coach and teammates.

She told Proffitt at a traveling softball tournament last summer that she would be returning. The news spread quickly, as many of her Wildkits teammates also were playing in the tournament.

“It was very exciting,” junior catcher Emily Mathyer said. “I think I asked her a few dozen times if she was being serious.”

“She’s a great leader,” Proffitt said of Balch’s impact upon her return. “She’s always encouraging and reaching out to teammates. … It was so exciting for the program to get her back.”

It’s evident why Balch’s return was so anticipated. Through the first four games of Evanston’s season this spring, Balch, who has committed to play softball at Division III Denison (Ohio) next year, is 12-for-14 with a double, three triples, one homer and eight RBI.

Balch, who homered in a 14-3 win at Highland Park on April 4, said that as significant as her numbers at the plate have been, she’s hoping that her work in the field will be noticed as well.

“Hitting is usually my strength, but I’ve been working hard on improving my fielding,” she said. “I put a lot of work in in the offseason because I want us to push past where we’ve been. We’ve reached the regional championship. My goal is for us to get past that.”

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