Before the season, Benet coach Jerry Schilf was faced with the task of selecting a No. 4 hitter, the spot usually reserved for a teams most productive power bat.
The No. 2 Redwings (29-2) feature five legit players who could have fit that role, but Schilf’s decision to put Stephanie Abello in the cleanup spot has paid plenty of dividends.
Abello has a team-leading 22 home runs through Sunday and is two away from tying the state record for home runs in a season.
The all-time team record? That now belongs to the Redwings, who have 63 home runs this season.
Marissa Panko set the record against Tinley Park on Thursday when she led off the game with her ninth home run of the season — the team’s 61st. The previous record of 60 was set last season by Trinity.
“I did not think about it or realize I had broken it until I rounded third and heard my team screaming about it,” Panko said.
Schilf isn’t the least surprised by what he has witnessed. He knew after watching Rowan McGuire bat for the first time in a Benet uniform that this team was special. McGuire, a Downer’s North transfer and sister of the 2012 Player of the Year Maeve McGuire, hit the first of her six homers on the season in that at-bat.
Schilf enjoyed that one, but had a tough time choosing which of the 63 hit has been his favorite.
“There’s so many,” he said. “Either the grand slam by Abello in the first inning vs. Bishop McNamara or the leadoff home run by Panko vs. Joliet Catholic Academy after they had scored two runs against us in the first — they both sent messages.”
Megan Stoppelman sent a message to her teammates against Carmel, proving you don’t need two healthy wrists to go yard. She hit one of her four home runs on the season after hurting her wrist making a diving catch the inning before.
“She came right back up her next at bat and jacked one over the left-field fence,” Abello said. “We were all shocked and saying ‘She hit that with one hand.’ ’’
Emily York is the other Redwing who has double-digit home runs with 10. Her personal favorite?
“I had a day against Wheaton North when I hit three home runs. That was just a really cool thing for me because I had never done anything like that before.”
Julianne Rurka has nine home runs this season. Her favorite home run was hit by Panko, her best friend on the team.
“We were playing a double-header at Marist and she came through by hitting a grand slam,” Rurka said. “The score was 10-8 and if Marissa did not hit that grand slam we wouldn’t have won that game.”
McGuire said her favorite home runs were by Brooklyn Baccega (one home run) and Jessica Brown (two home runs).
“I love to see other teammates succeeding,” McGuire said. “Girls like Brooklyn and Jessica who don’t normally hit home runs are always the happiest when they hit home plate.”
It’s been a very happy season for the Redwings.