Naperville Sun Player of the Year: Stephanie Abello

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Stephanie Abello’s 22 home runs this season gave her 48 in her career. That left her just six homers shy of the Illinois state record of 54, set in 2012 by Johnston City’s Cierra Hutchinson.

And the Benet catcher is only a junior.

“She might break the home run record in the first two weeks of the season next year,” Benet coach Jerry Schilf said. “But there’s so much more to her game than just hitting home runs.”

Abello is the 2014 Naperville Sun Player of the Year. She batted .481 for the Redwings (30-3), who enjoyed a lofty place in the state rankings all season before losing in a Class 4A regional title game.

Abello also had 63 RBI to go with her prodigious home run output. If those lofty hitting numbers weren’t enough to list her among the state’s best players, she’s also on the short, short list of the best defensive catchers in all the land.

“For me, catching is the best job in the world,” Abello said. “You have to love it to be able to do it. I love having the feeling of being in control of the entire infield, and seeing the entire diamond, working with my pitchers, and talking to the umpires. I love all of it.”

Teams only attempted eight stolen bases all year with Abello behind the plate, and only two runners managed to steal on her in 33 games. She picked off 15 runners in 2014.

“There’s no doubt that she’s the best catcher out there,” Schilf said. “And she might be the best defensive player overall. She just controls the game.

“She calls the game, doesn’t allow passed balls, doesn’t allow runners to steal on her, and if someone’s going to bunt on us they better keep it away from home plate, because she’s going to pick it up and throw them out.”

Abello has already committed to play for the University of Illinois after she graduates in 2015. She’ll handle the attention she’s sure to get next year as she approaches the career home run record, but plans on keeping things in perspective.

“It’s fun to hear people talking about it but records are meant to be broken,” Abello said. “Whether or not I break the home run record, someone’s going to come behind me and break it someday. So I just plan on focusing on my game and my hitting, and not any of the numbers involved.”

Asked to recount Abello’s biggest moments from the season, Schilf points to the way Batavia approached her in Benet’s one-sided, regional semifinal win.

“Even with the bases loaded, they wouldn’t pitch to her,” Schilf said. “What more can you say about a hitter than that?”

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