Sun-Times top 25 softball teams

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1. Naperville Central: Eight starters are back from a team that opened last year 29-0 and spent a majority of the season at No. 1 until losing in the regional final to Downers South. Northern Illinois recruit P Keegan Hayes (22-3, 1.53 ERA) and Syracuse-bound OF Maddie Doane (.492, 3 HR, 64 H) are the key returners. Keep an eye on sophomore’s Lisa Tassi and Lindsey Gonzalez.

2. Marist: Loyola-bound senior SS Brooke Wyderski (.587, 12 HR, 64 RBI) and five other starters return, and that’s not good for opposing pitchers. Sophomore 2B Madison Naujoukas (.394, 2 HR) returns her big bat and solid defense. Sophomore P Lizzie Annerino and junior P Zariya Gonzalez will take over in the circle. Keep an eye on freshman 3B Alexis Rogers.

3. Benet: The Redwings will again have one of the best offenses in the state. Seven starters return, including Illinois-bound C Stephanie Abello (.505, 12 HR, 51 RBI). Georgie Southern recruit Rowan McGuire is now eligible after transferring from Downers North last year, and pitcher Molly Moran, who was injured last season, will be key.

4. Lincoln-Way West: Leading the way is senior P Morghan Dieringer (22-3, 1.89 ERA, 205 K) and sophomore SS Dani Morgan (.463, 6 HR, 36 RBI). Sophomore IF/OF/P Amanda Ruskowsky is expected to contribute. Six starters return.

5. Peotone: Junior slugger Emily Carstens had a monster sophomore year, cranking out 19 home runs while hitting .510. The Olivet recruit was also effective in the circle, leading the Reapers to a 31-4 record, including a loss to Manteno in a Class 3A sectional. Five other starters return, including Lewis recruit Carley Maupin. Catcher Ellie Hagemaster is ready to shine.

6. St. Charles North: All nine starters return from a 25-6 team that lost in the first round of the playoffs. Northwestern-bound senior P Sabrina Rabin (.536; 18-4, 1.49 ERA), 1B Abby Howlett (NIU), and senior SS Mick Goetz (Olivet) return. Junior 2B/OF Kaitlyn Waslawski is a third-year starter and getting Division I interest.

7. Providence: A regional final loss left a sour taste. Seven starters return, including DePaul recruits Morgan Greewood (.460, 4 HR, 23 RBI) and Jessica Cothern (.429, 9 HR, 40 RBI). Minnesota-bound sophomore P Kendal Judge (8-3, 2.80 ERA) has high expectations. Freshman Allyssa Demma is expected to contribute immediately.

8. Barrington: Three starters are back from a record-setting 36-win team that finished third in Class 4A. Among those is Loyola-bound P Keenan Dolezal, who went 29-2 last year with a 0.87 ERA and 239 strikeouts. There will be a handful of new faces in coach Perry Peterson’s lineup, but expectations are high.

9. Glenbard South: The two-time defending state champ returns six starters and 12 of 16 players, including outfielders Ashton Cattenhead (.446) and Aimee Gerhardt (.433). Sophomore Ashley Cohen, who started in the infield as a freshman, will take over the pitching duties. Coach Julie Fonda always finds a way.

10. York: Eight starters return for a program that has been a bracket-buster in the playoffs the past few seasons. DePaul-bound senior CF Angela Scalzitti (.508, 37 SB), junior Sarah Milkowski (.373), and sophomore Abby Solem (.402, 5 HR, 37 RBI) will lead the Dukes, who finished fourth in Class 4A last season.

11. Downers North: Arizona State-bound pitcher Dale Ryndak is back from a season-ending injury  and will make life easier for new coach Eric Landshoot. Five starters are back from a 26-win team that lost a sectional final. Keep an eye on sophomore Jaclyn Pasakarnis, and freshmen Katie Polaski and Zoe Varsbergs.

12. Minooka: The defending Class 4A state champions return five starters from a 23-8 team that won the state title game by slaughter rule. Jordan Larsen, Marissa Burns, and P Meghan Quirk are expected to make an immediate impact. The Indians have won 23 or more games the last four seasons.

13. St. Charles East: Getting trounced in the Class 4A title game by Minooka left the seven returning starters with a sour taste. But finishing second in state, winning 33 games, and having the nucleus of the team back is a recipe for success.  Senior OF Tess Hupe (.356, 20 SB), junior IF/P Alex Latoria (.362, 10 HR), and sophomore OF Katie Kolb return.

14. Downers South: Seven starters return from a sectional championship team, including P Caroline Hedgcock. Belmont recruit Jessica Andree is the top returning position player. While manning the SS position she hit .449 with six home runs and 35 RBI while striking out just five times. Illinois State-bound Caitlyn Daly is the other key returner.

15. Tinley Park: A breakthrough season has the Titans with even higher expectations after finishing third in Class 3A while going 26-8. Star player Alyssa Gunther graduated, but slugging 3B Samantha Alberto (10 HR), and versatile 2B Lexxi Lux are back. Taking over the pitching duties is fearless sophomore Annalisse Scott, who went 12-1 last season.

16. Bishop McNamara: The loss of Player of the Year Jaelen Hull (Bradley) and shortstop Alee Rashenskas (West Point) is a big blow after going 35-0 and winning the Class 2A state title. Five starters return and with coach Laura Harms still calling the shots, and Jaelen’s younger sister Baylee Hull  taking over in the circle, this team shouldn’t miss a beat.

17. New Trier: With senior Pitcher Allison Quigley (21-1, 0.56 ERA, 187 K; .365, 3 HR) back along with five other starters the expectations are high. Quigley led her team to a sectional title appearance (loss to Barrington) and 29 wins. Also back are senior SS Meg Neuhaus, junior 2B Lily Novak (.429), senior 1B Alexa Carus and senior  RF Abbey Boyd (.507, 4 HR).

18. Manteno: A loss to Peotone in the regional championship will be plenty of motivation. Seven starters are back from a 23-6 team, including Western Illinois-bound pitcher Brooke Stulga (14-5, 1.57 ERA, 160 K; .366, 2 HR). IUPUI recruit Sammy Beckwith (.489) will spark what should be a high-scoring offense. Keep an eye on junior slugger Selena Schulties.

19. Glenbard North: Five starters are back from a 26-win, regional champion team that finished second in conference. Louisville-bound senior SS Sydney Benz (.459, 3 HR, 29 RBI) will lead the offense, along with Illinois State-bound senior 2B Alex Caliva (.366, 9 2B, HR), Bradley-bound  junior 3B Stephanie Campos (.314, 3 HR), and Albany-bound  junior CF Sarah Petzold (.337).

20. Sandburg: The Eagles advanced to supersectionals and return five starters from a 23-15 team. Senior P Sarah Herold (13-10, 2.53 ERA, 166 K) and junior OF/1B Katie Krzus (.358, 9 HR, 41 RBI) will be the key for this team’s success. Senior C Karli McLaughlin is a three-year starter and is expected to have a breakout season.

21. Joliet West: Eight starters back from a 21-win team that lost to state-champ Minooka in regionals. The season will rely on freshman P Kylie Robb, who appears to be up to the task. Murray State recruit Julie Luceaga (22 RBI), Illinois Central recruit Joy Treasure (.402, 28 RBI), Jennifer Ames (.402, 7 HR), and Alyssa Rodriquez (.377, 3 HR) will key the offensive.

22. Plainfield Central: A loss to Class 4A-champ Minooka in the sectional final has the six returners back from a 28-6 team hungry for more. Senior CF Timi Tooley and junior SS Michaela Schlattman will lead the offense. Taking over the pitching duties will be freshman Brooklyn Daly, who has already made a solid name for herself in the travel circuit.

23. McHenry: Evansville-bound junior P Kristin Koepke is one of the best in the area in the circle and at the plate. She finished 18-9 with a 1.92 ERA and hit .350 with 35 RBI. She leads a team that returns five starters, won 24 games, and captured a regional title. Kentucky-bound sophomore SS Alex Martens (.421) should be even better.

24. Fremd: The Vikings, who won 24 games a regional title last season, return five starters. Illinois-bound shortstop Leigh Farina (.495, 8 HR), 2B Tracy Welninski (.403, 4 HR), and 3B Julie Josten (.327, 4 HR) are the top returners. Keep an eye on CF Alyssa Garcia, who is expected to make a contribution offensively and defensively.

25. Lane: New coach Devin Miller will try to continue the winning tradition, and she has a lot to work with, starting with sophomore slugger Kayla Garcia (.541, 8 HR). All nine starters are back from a 27-win team that won the city title over Young and a regional championship. The Dolphins, as always, will be Lane’s biggest challenger in the Public League.

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