Category Archives: Softball

School Board approves assistant softball coach resignations

Kristyn Crawford
Kristyn Crawford
Andrew Franklin
Andrew Franklin

KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Monday voted 6-1 to accept the resignations of two Kaneland High School assistant softball coaches.

Board trustee Tony Valente was the lone “no” vote. He spoke about the two coaches, Kristyn Crawford and Andrew Franklin, during the meeting.

“We’re losing the majority of our staff,” Valente said.

Valente also mentioned former softball head coach Brian Willis. The School Board on Sept. 29 voted and approved Willis’ release from his coaching position.

Willis had said that a harassment charge was filed against him in May 2014.

“After an investigation, it was found to have no basis,” Willis read from a statement at the Sept. 29 meeting. “The root of the complaint was because an athlete was not playing as many innings as the parents thought she should. And they had to come up with something, thus the harassment charge.”

Valente on Monday called it “troubling” to lose three coaches at the high school, and noted that the coaches are “phenomenal teachers.”

Valente also said he was tempted to call the coaches, but decided to “stay off the dance floor.”

Kaneland Interim Superintendent Renee Goier said that the resignations were due to “personal reasons.”

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Kaneland removes softball coach

KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Sept. 29 voted 7-0 to release Kaneland High School softball coach Brian Willis from his duties as head coach.

Willis had spent the last five years as head coach for Kaneland varsity girls softball. He also teaches drivers education, physical education and adaptive physical education at the high school.

Willis at the Sept. 29 School Board meeting said that he had been asked to resign from his coaching position, but declined to do so. He also read a prepared statement prior to the School Board’s vote

“I am writing this letter to ask the Kaneland School Board and the high school administration to reconsider the decision to release me from the head coaching position of varsity softball,” Willis read from his statement.

Willis’ letter continued, noting his 25 years of teaching experience—13 of them at Kaneland—and 10 years of coaching with the Lady Knights.

“(I’ve) never had an accusation made against me for something I have done illegal or immoral,” Willis read from his statement. “This continues to be the case this evening.”

He said that a harassment charge had been filed against him in May 2014.

“After an investigation, it was found to have no basis,” Willis read from his statement. “The root of the complaint was because an athlete was not playing as many innings as the parents thought she should. And they had to come up with something, thus the harassment charge.”

In his statement, Willis said the reason he was informed of the decision to release him from coaching was “vague.”

“When I asked for the reason, I was told of concerns administration had about the program,” Willis read from his statement. “Those concerns were also documented in the harassment charge, and again possessed no evidence of wrongdoing—only the opinion of people who disagree with my softball philosophy.”

Willis said that he had been told any information gathered had to remain confidential and that it could not be shared with him. He noted that a person usually loses a job because of illegal activity, immoral judgment or poor performance.

Willis also acknowledged that his coaching performance last season was not equivalent to years past and by his own standards.

“The reality was, I couldn’t perform at the same mental or physical level I am accustomed to because of my ongoing battle with cancer,” Willis read from his statement. “I did my best in the classroom and on the field with tremendous support from everybody. I was not told by high school administration my performance was substandard.”

The KHS girls varsity softball team went 20-12 last season, after going 24-4 in 2013.
Regarding his release, Willis had just one question: why?

“I think that is a fair question,” Willis read from his statement. “And out of respect for my commitment towards Kaneland High School the past 13 years, I have earned the right to have that answered honestly.”

Willis said that both he and his staff worked hard to create a “winning program” on and off of the field. He said that tough decisions had been made that some didn’t agree with or like, but mentioned that he always has tried to teach his students and his athletes to be accountable for their actions.

“If you have done something out of favor, face the consequences,” Willis read from his statement. “If not, stand on the highest mountain and declare your innocence. Tonight, I stand on the mountain.”

Community members stood up to offer supporting words for Willis. Molly Cohrs, whose daughter plays for the Lady Knights, spoke of Willis putting together fundraisers for field improvements and returning Kaneland’s softball program to both a respected and winning program.

“Having recently waged a winning battle against cancer, he practiced until he could no longer stand, and then sat on a bucket so practice could continue,” Cohrs said.

She also spoke about what was expected of the Lady Knights softball team.

“Expectation is high, effort is required, and you have to be able to produce—defensively and offensively on the field, and in the classroom,” Cohrs said. “And yes, if a coach believes you are not giving 110 percent all the time; if he believes you are playing below your potential; he’s going to let you know it.”

Cohrs called student playing time the “most sensitive topic” in any high school sport played.

“I don’t think it is a coincidence that if you look back at the families and players who have complained about any Kaneland coach, their history of playtime at Kaneland will likely show that they were either cut from a program or they did not play as much as other players,” Cohrs said.

Paige Kuefler, senior Lady Knights player, wore a Team Willis gray T-shirt during the School Board meeting. She also spoke on behalf of the team about the one she calls “Coach Willis.”

“He wants the best for us,” Kuefler said. “Does he get frustrated with us? At times, yes. Because he knows we can do better; he knows how we play. He’s seen our 100 percent, and if he doesn’t, he will push us until he sees it.”

Kuefler mentioned that positions on the Lady Knights softball team had to be earned.
“Our positions were never handed to us,” she said. “Each and every athlete of the softball team had to earn a position.”

Following the meeting, Willis reflected on the support he received at the meeting.

“I’m very happy with the support I got tonight,” he said. “And the fact that even if I’m not reinstated as coach, I can lay my head on my pillow knowing that I had a positive effect on these young ladies’ lives.”

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Lady Knights have bummer in Burlington

After close regional semi win vs. G-K, KHS falls in last inning to hosts
BURLINGTON, Ill.—For the Lady Knights, a 20-12 final record coupled with a hard-fought win over Genoa-Kingston on May 28 would have the markings of a pretty successful 2014.

The Kaneland lineup was hoping for more.

Class 3A regional host Burlington Central, the top seed in the grouping, escaped the field with a 6-5 win after a wild ride on the basepaths led to the winning run scoring after a single from second. A throw trying to nab the baserunner went out of play allowing the final run to come home.

Before that wild action, Kaneland used heads-up baserunning on May 28, thanks to a Morgan Weber steal of home in the 1-0 win.

Morrow pitched both games of the regional.

In the win over the No. 3 seed Cogs, Morrow, headed to the University of Wisconsin, fanned 10 batters.

“We came together as a team and we’re all in right now. The fastball was working, and he was giving me that corner, so I was working it. I knew I had to get outs after the run, either groundouts or strikeouts,” Morrow said.

The run came home in the bottom of the third, set up by a Weber single and Lanie Callaghan reaching on a fielder’s choice. With runners moved to second and third two batters later, a throw-out attempt of Callaghan at second was botched, allowing Weber to sneak home for the game’s only run.

“When something like that happens, you have to take the next base that opens up. I think our team’s coming together, and I think we’re playing a good game of softball,” Weber said.

After the win, KHS coach Brian Willis was glad for the clutch performances.

“I don’t know how many 0-2 counts Angie had, a bunch,” Willis said. “0-2, 1-2, that gives her a big advantage. With the run, we try to practice every situation. If the ball gets away like that, we’ve got to be on our toes.”

Against BC, the Rockets went up 4-0 after one inning and KHS cut it to 5-2 in the third. Closer at 5-3 in the seventh, Paige Kuefler’s two-run single tied the score and set the stage for the last frame.

With the loss, the Lady Knights bid goodbye to seniors Allie Miller, Lexi Roach, Hayley Contorno, Callaghan and Caroline Heimerdinger.

Photos by Marshall Farthing

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Softball steadying

Photo: A Kaneland coach talks with a KHS baserunner at a recent game. The Lady Knights faced off against Genoa-Kingston Wednesday as part of the
Burlington Central Regional. Results were not available as of press time.
Courtesy photo submitted by Linda Kelley to ads@elburnherald.com

KANELAND—KHS softball was able to get itself into a groove at the late juncture of the regular season, and just in time.

Navigating its way through numerous cancellations and postponements two weeks ago, the Lady Knights were able to see action against Morris on May 21, winning 6-0 and facing off against host Rosary in a doubleheader to put a final note on the regular season, sweeping both morning contests on Saturday before beating West Aurora 1-0 in the afternoon.

KHS sits at 19-11 and finishes the Northern Illinois Big XII conference season at 7-3.

Angie Morrow won the game over the Morris Redskins, who dropped to 18-9, and allowed just two hits on the afternoon.

Courtney Davis excelled in the pitchers’ circle for the Game 1 win over the Royals, while Shannon Herra took the Game 2 win.

In the win over the Blackhawks, Morrow earned his second win in four days.

Up next for Kaneland was the Wednesday, May 28, meeting as part of the Burlington Central Regional as the No. 2 seed against No. 3 Genoa-Kingston. The Lady Knights-Cogs matchup was for the right to face BC, Hampshire or Sycamore in the Saturday, May 31, championship at 10 a.m. Results weren’t available at press time.

A year ago, Kaneland’s six-run rally against Rosary fell short in the final inning in the Rosary Regional title game.

Softball handles late-season stretch

KANELAND—A slashed schedule this week meant it was as spotless a seven-day stretch as you could get for Kaneland High School softball.

With the regular season gradually coming to a full stop, Kaneland’s lone game this week was in DeKalb, ending with a 4-1 win along the Dresser Road campus.

Kaneland now sits at 15-11 on the season, with a 6-3 record in Northern Illinois Big XII conference play. At this point in 2013, the Lady Knights were 23-3 behind a stellar senior core.

Other games scheduled were shelved completely or postponed, bringing the total to five of the last seven contests. Friday’s game against Southwest Prairie Conference school Plainfield North was cancelled, while a home matchup with Morris set for Saturday was postponed to Wednesday. Monday’s contest with Plano in Maple Park was cancelled, as well.

The win over DeKalb took place in eight innings, with three plated in the top of the frame for the win. Burlington Central transfer Angie Morrow got the win, and Paige Kuefler’s RBI double broke the tie.

After Morris’ encounter, the Lady Knights head to Aurora to face Rosary in a doubleheader.

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Softball ups and downs

Split week sees big cancer benefit
KANELAND—Kaneland softball continued its late-season stretch with some run explosions, and some community help on the side, as well.

Monday saw a trip to Ogle County and a 12-0 win in five innings over Rochelle. Saturday saw a twinbill split against the Naperville North Huskies, first losing 13-7, and coming back with a 10-7 win. Friday in Yorkville saw a 4-3 walkoff loss to the Foxes, while last Thursday had a 21-1 win over Rochelle to begin the season sweep.

In the Monday win over Rochelle, the Lady Knights (14-11, 5-3 Northern Illinois Big XII), KHS scored four in the second and five in the fourth to cinch matters. Against the DuPage Valley Conference rep Huskies, Courtney Davis got the loss in the first game, but Morgan Weber had two homers in her doubleheader time, and Lanie Callaghan also went yard.

On Friday, the Lady Knights fell behind 2-0 before coming back to take a 3-2 lead. Yorkville’s Rachael Owens tied the game with a sixth-inning homer, while Corrine Rowe ended the game in the seventh off losing pitcher Angie Morrow. Weber had two doubles, while Paige Kuefler also added a double.

Before the massive double-digit win over Rochelle, the Lady Knights and Hubs came together for their usual charity proceedings and their cancer awareness game. After collecting money all season for its “Change for Cancer” promotion throughout the 2014 season, a $200 check was provided to Dr. Perry Menini of Oncology at Cadence Cancer Center in Geneva. $200 was also donated to the family of Julia Pratte, a Kaneland softball player battling Ewing Sarcoma, as well as an additional $100 to the MadiStrong Foundation, benefiting the treatment of Madi Bettham, a Yorkville fourth-grader who’s battling cancer.

For KHS coach Brian Willis, going through his own colon cancer battle, the impact was certainly not lost.

“The day was awesome and emotional at the same time,” Willis said. “Being able to give back to others in need the same way people have given to me is an emotion that is hard to put in to words. I know the struggles people go through on a personal basis physically, emotionally, and financially during this process.”

Kaneland next heads to DeKalb on Thursday, May 15.

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Softball outlast Morris, has rematch with Sycamore

KANELAND—The Lady Knights softball team’s overall record is staying afloat as the regular season inches closer and closer to its end.

Last Thursday, the Lady Knights defeated the capable Morris Lady Redskins down in Grundy County territory by a final of 8-6.

For KHS, senior Burlington Central transfer and future Wisconsin Badger Angie Morrow was the winning pitcher, while senior first-baseman Hayley Contorno added a three-run homer in the winning effort.

On Tuesday, just 11 days after a thrilling 10-9 comeback win, KHS hosted Sycamore and won 8-3.

Kaneland is now 11-9, with a 3-2 record in Northern Illinois Big XII conference play.

Tonight the Lady Knights host conference rival Rochelle at 4:30 p.m.

Photo by Mary Paulson

Pack the Park event at Fifth Third Bank Park May 19

GENEVA—The Kaneland Knights and Batavia Bulldogs baseball teams want to pack the park at Geneva’s Fifth Third Bank Park May 19 to raise money for three honorary families to help them in their battles with cancer.

This year’s honorees include Kaneland softball head coach Brian Willis, Kaneland senior baseball player Kevin Kassinger’s father, Phil, and Drew Hahn, a 12-year-old Kaneland Harter Middle School student, whose father is the head baseball coach at Geneva High School.

The event will also be a senior night celebration.

Admission is $5, and in addition to sophomore and varsity baseball action, the event includes silent auctions. The sophomores play at 4:30 while the varsity teams take the field at 7 p.m.

For general information, donations or sponsorship information, contact Brian Aversa at brian.aversa@kaneland.org or visit Kaneland.org/content/pack-park.

Case of the missing bats


Baseball, Softball levels bear witness to no-hitters, perfect game
KANELAND—To win on the baseball or softball field, many things have to go right.

For a no-hitter or perfect game to be thrown, pitches have to go right past the bats with regularity.

Area residents have been privy to each of those if they’ve ventured out to see Kaneland baseball and softball this 2014 campaign, with softball talent Angie Morrow’s no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader at Geneva on April 19, and baseball’s Nate Hopkins tossing a no-no at Plano April 9, and sophomore hurdler Matt O’Sullivan’s perfect game for the lower-class level Knights against Yorkville last week.

For Morrow, this pitching feat was nothing new, having thrown a no-hitter against the Hampshire Whip-purs her freshman year as a Burlington Central Rocket. Morrow was able to keep composure during the 3-0 win.

“I had one my freshman year against Hampshire at Burlington. Those games don’t feel different. You don’t usually realize it until someone tells you. I just try to stay within myself,” Morrow said.

The very act of pitching and concentrating can almost serve as a distraction from the daunting task.

“There’s always something you’re working on, and it’s until the end of the game when it’s over and someone says congratulations,” Morrow said.

For Hopkins’ 11-0 win in Plano against the Reapers, the Knights saw no-hit stuff from Hopkins in the six-inning affair, but it was a multi-faceted victory.

“I feel like defense is definitely a big part of it,” Hopkins said. “There was a play at shortstop that saved my no-hitter and really helped me.”

It made for a memorable April Wednesday.

“I think I was dealing, and I feel like I was going really well, and the team’s not supposed to say anything during the game. I didn’t even know there were no hits until the sixth inning.”

Elements from multiple areas need to converge for the noteworthy achievement.

“A no-hitter or perfect game takes a lot to happen,” KHS varsity baseball head coach Brian Aversa said. “It’s not just the pitcher, but defense is very important, as well. You need a few things to go your way. Joe Panico made a diving stop up the middle to save a hit at short. You need to catch a break or two. I think no-hitters are a culmination of many things, not just someone going out there and throwing well.”

KHS also got a glimpse of what could be on the horizon with a “perfecto” tossed by lefty sophomore Matt O’Sullivan against Yorkville last Thursday.

The 21-up, 21-down effort went 11-0 in the favor of the Knights, with O’Sullivan aware of the Foxes’ tendencies.

“The game before, we kind of saw and learned they liked to chase the high stuff,” O’Sullivan said. “I tried to get ahead in the count and then throw the high stuff.”

The sophomore knows that it’s a team effort for a perfect result.

“You’ve got to have defense. There were a couple of diving catches. There’s no way that a no-hitter’s possible without it,” O’Sullivan said.

With the recent rash of exceptional pitching accomplishments, the Kaneland baseball and softball programs have shown what’s possible with all aspects working on the diamond.

Can’t count ‘em out

KHS softball earns come-from-behind win
KANELAND—Under wind-swept and sunny skies, the forecast was less than appealing for the Lady Knights softball squad in Sycamore on Friday.

A three-run barrage in the top of the first inning soon gave way to a seven-run rally for Sycamore, but a run in the second, two in the fourth and four more in the sixth put a cap on a KHS comeback and a 10-9 win.

Other action during a packed week saw Kaneland drop a 3-1 decision to visiting DeKalb on Thursday, while hosting Northern Illinois Big XII crossover foe Geneseo on Saturday. The Lady Knights took the opener 4-3 while losing the second game 17-9.

KHS’ game against Yorkville in Kendall County on Tuesday was postponed.

KHS now sits at 9-9, with a 1-2 record in NIB-12 play.

In the matchup against DeKalb, it was Angie Morrow tagged with the loss.

Against Sycamore, Anissa Becker was unable to get out of the first inning, while Courtney Davis came on and pitched until the sixth when winning pitcher Angie Morrow came on to cinch the game.

“Our pitching was a little erratic, to say the least,” KHS coach Brian Willis said. “It was at the beginning at the game, and I explained to (Becker) that everybody has a day like that. You’ve just got to pick each other up, and our other pitchers came in and picked her up and only allowed two runs the rest of the game.”

After Morgan Weber doubled and Lexi Roach walked to kick off the game, Lanie Callaghan reached on an infield single before Meg Cohrs drove two home with a double. However, Callaghan was ruled out at third. After Cohrs went to third on a wild pitch, Hayley Contorno drove her in with a single for a 3-0 edge.

Sycamore was able to blow the game open with seven runs and nine hits in the bottom of the first and necessitating Davis’ entrance. Davis allowed just one hit to the first batter she faced.

The Lady Knights were able to reach home plate in the top of the second thanks to a Callaghan double that brought home Roach, who walked. Callaghan was again ruled out at third base trying to advance.

Two more runs came the Kaneland way in the top of the fourth. Davis singled, while Mary Clausen sacrificed her over to second. Davis would move to third on a passed ball and Weber would walk, setting the stage for Roach’s RBI single. Callaghan walked to load the bases and Cohrs’ sacrifice fly sent in the second run. Contorno’s groundout would end the rally at 7-6.

Sycamore plated two more in the bottom of the fifth before KHS sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the sixth. Morgan Sikon’s RBI made it 9-7, and pinch hitter Paige Kuefler’s fielder’s choice made it 9-8, but Clausen’s squeeze play to drive home Kuefler ended as an out after Clausen was first ruled safe at home.

With the bases still loaded, Weber’s two-run single gave Kaneland the lead for the first time since the first inning.

Morrow and the defense were able to stifle a burgeoning rally that had a Sycamore runner in scoring position in the sixth and made it through the seventh for the dramatic win.

“The situation was, we couldn’t let them score,” Morrow said. “That was the biggest thing for me, and I needed to get a ground ball or strike somebody out. I was throwing fastballs; my curveball wasn’t working the way I wanted it to.”

Future action has the Lady Knights trek to Morris for an NIB-12 clash on Thursday, May 1.

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Softball stuck by Yorkville

Photos: Junior pitcher Angie Morrow (right) pitched well against
Geneva Saturday, earning a win. Senior center fielder Lanie Callaghan (below) set up an early run at Yorkville Thursday, but the Lady Knights lost to the Lady Foxes 5-2. Photos submitted by Jake Morrow to sports@elburnherald.com

Games in Geneva complete week
KANELAND—When Paige Kuefler takes a line drive off her wrist on the first batter of the game, resulting in her removal from the contest, you know it’s a difficult Thursday.

Dealing with a rising Yorkville program and an early-inning hole, the Lady Knights took it on the chin in a 5-2 loss, before splitting a doubleheader in Geneva with a 3-0 win and a 9-8 loss on Saturday.

Kaneland softball now sits at 7-7 through the first 14 contests in 2014.

Errors and extra-base hits plagued Kaneland and starting pitcher Angie Morrow, as the Lady Foxes emerged from the first two innings up 5-0.

Lanie_Callaghan The Lady Knights finally struck home plate when Morgan Weber laced a one-out double and a Lanie Callaghan groundout sent her to third. Rachel Goress smacked an RBI double before the inning ended to close it to 5-1 after four innings.

While holding the visitors scoreless, KHS was threatening in the bottom of the sixth, but couldn’t advance the runners after Callaghan reached on an error and Goress beat out an infield single.

In the bottom of the seventh, Hayley Contorno hit a single, and two batters later Morgan Sikon drove her home with an RBI single to make it 5-2. But the Foxes’ Rachael Owens was able to induce two Ks to end the game.

“I thought (Yorkville) pitched well today,” KHS coach Brian Willis said. “They played decent defense. You look at the scoreboard; they outplayed us. They didn’t do anything after their first two innings, but it doesn’t matter. You play seven innings.”

Kuefler’s absence didn’t do much to help KHS chances of victory, either.

“I don’t like anybody to get hurt. That first ball, nobody in the world is going to catch that. That’s a great ball by (Yorkville’s) Corrine (Rowe). After that, they dinked and dunked us,” Willis said.

Against Geneva, it was Morrow earning the win in game one, while Shannon Herra took the loss in game two.

A trip to Rochelle set for this past Friday was postponed until Monday, May 12.

KHS prepares for a challenge in the form of visiting DeKalb on Thursday, April 24.

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Softball recovers vs. Batavia after taking it on helmet

Photo: Morgan Weber
scored six runs, and had
three hits and a home run
in the Knight’s doubleheader
wins over Batavia

Runs come home after two non-conference losses
KANELAND—While it might be nice to be close to home, the Lady Knights softball team would like to cross home itself and stop the other team from doing so.

Fresh off a trip to Tennessee, the Lady Knights hosted Oswego High School of the Southwest Prairie Conference on April 9, only to fall 3-0. On Friday against Marengo in Maple Park, the Lady Knights lost 7-4, before the non-conference three-headed tour ended with a 12-2 and 19-5 five-inning sweep over former Western Sun Conference foe Batavia.

KHS sits at 6-5, thus far, after the split week.

Against the Lady Panthers, the Lady Knights fanned 11 times in the loss, and laced just three hits, with the Panthers’ go-ahead run coming in the third inning.

Facing off against the Indians, the visitors scored four in the top of the third inning, with Courtney Davis getting tagged with the loss. Morgan Weber had a two-run homer to her credit in a four-run fourth inning. Middle-of-the-order presence Paige Kuefler went 2-for-3 with a double and run scored, while Lady Knight teammate Meg Cohrs had a double and RBI.

In the prolific doubleheader solving of the Lady Bulldogs, Weber had three hits and a HR, while scoring six runs. Kuefler starred again with three doubles and a single in the sweep.

Burlington Central transfer Angie Morrow earned the game one win, while Anissa Becker took the back-end win.

A Monday matchup with West Aurora was cancelled due to inclement weather, while a Tuesday conference matchup against Rochelle in Ogle County was postponed until Friday, April 18.

On Thursday, April 17, the Lady Knights attempt to handle the visiting Yorkville Lady Foxes.

Kaneland softball steers clear of Tenn. trouble

CLARKSVILLE, TENN.—With the struggles of most area teams in northern Illinois to get softball games in, Kaneland went with a tried and true formula: get out of the state.

Visiting Clarksville, Tenn., for the Play It Again Classic and set in the gold division, the Lady Knights lost to Union County of Kentucky by a final of 4-0 in six innings, and also dropped a 4-2 matchup in five innings against Christian County of Kentucky on Saturday. KHS also lost to Peoria Notre Dame by a 3-2 margin on Friday.

Kaneland is now 3-3 on the season. KHS was set to host Oswego on Wednesday, April 9, with results unavailable for press, and hosts non-conference rival Marengo on Friday, April 11, at 4:30 p.m.

Toward the end of last week, the Lady Knights learned of their postseason assignment, and compete in the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional along with rivals BC, Genoa-Kingston, Hampshire and Sycamore. The winner of the regional moves on to the Marengo Sectional.

Kaneland softball gets in more outdoor swings

DEKALB—It was only one contest, but the more outdoor diamond time the Lady Knights get, the better.

On Monday, the lone contest of a Spring Break week, the Lady Knights met their former conference mates Batavia out at the DeKalb Park District fields and won 4-0.

The Lady Knights improve to 3-0 on the young season.

Burlington Central transfer Angie Morrow dealt a one-hitter against the Bulldog lineup, with outfielder Lanie Callaghan smacking two hits.

“Hayley Contorno also played well offensively, laying down two key bunts that led to runs,” KHS coach Brian Willis said.

A scheduled meeting against Northern Illinois Big XII West division foe Ottawa was cancelled on Thursday, while a Saturday doubleheader against Oswego was postponed to Wednesday, April 9.

Kaneland begins a Volunteer State stay in Clarksville, Tenn., for a tournament beginning on Friday, April 4.

Lexi Roach

Joy Division: Knight athletes know what they’ve signed up for at D-I peak

KANELAND—High school athletes’ talent can bring them amazing things: wins, titles and even the chance to keep playing the sport they love.

With powerhouses like senior Joe Komel, future Central Michigan University Chippewa, it also brings certainty.

“I think every kid wants to ideally compete at that next level,” Komel said.

That’s echoed by speedster classmate Kyle Carter.

“I just knew I wanted to go to the next level and I knew I didn’t want to stop,” Carter said.

Last month, 13 Kaneland High School athletes participated in National Signing Day, with several athletes signing letters of intent with Division I schools.

For a speedster like Brandon Bishop, who signed as a preferred walk-on at the University of Iowa, he’s aware of the unique task and slot that awaits him on the gridiron.

“I just look at it as I get to do a sport that I love to play. I don’t look at it as a job,” Bishop said.

One of six Knight football players that signed to play with various levels of college programs, Bishop doesn’t know how big of a role he’ll have as part of the Hawkeye program, but will take what comes.

“Any level of college football is big time,” Bishop said. “I was originally with a D-II school, but once you experience a Big 10 program, you dream about that stuff. It’s a big-time mentality there.”

Bishop was also present at a Hawkeyes practice when the squad was practicing for the Outback Bowl in Tampa, that resulted in a 21-14 loss on New Year’s Day to LSU.

“It’s an eye-opener, and I was fortunate to see it,” Bishop said. “They have great facilities in the Big 10.”

Bishop, who wishes to major in social work and possibly be a position coach, is no stranger to the work as a gridiron and track standout.

“It just matters that I compete. I believe in myself to play at that level,” Bishop said.

Bishop joined fellow Knight football gladiators Justin Diddell (Indiana State), Gary Koehring (St. Cloud State), Komel (Central Michigan), Dylan Nauert (St. Cloud State) and Tyler Slamans (Western Illinois) in the Class of 2018 football group.

Komel joins a Mid-American Conference outfit that also boasts former Knight offensive threat Blake Serpa.

“Blake is good friends with my older brother, Sam, and he was able to help me meet with officials from the football program. I had been looking at MAC and Missouri schools,” Komel said.

Komel, part of the solid offensive line that yielded three consecutive Northern Illinois Big XII championships, feels the success at KHS helped buoy him and his chances at the top collegiate level.

“When CMU talked with me, they told me that I came from a program that knows how to win, and that’s what a lot of those schools are looking for,” Komel said. “Kaneland prepared me for that and they know how to win.”

The spring season action in the higher collegiate ranks look to highlight Sydney Strang (Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne) and Carter (Southern Illinois), who are joined by Nathaniel Kucera, who recently committed to Stanford track.

Kucera’s options opened up after receiving a packet from universities following the June Midwest Distance Festival at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill.

“Things really opened up for me after that,” Kucera said. “I would have competed at any level after high school, Division III, whatever, but I jumped at the chance.”

Kucera, who’s a verbal commitment to the Pac-12 Conference school, visited the Palo Alto, Ca., institution in the fall.

“It was a surreal moment whenever you get out there. They are such high-caliber athletes, but I was able to talk to everyone on the team. There’s no big egos there,” Kucera said.

The senior looks to be taking a different path than his fellow classmates, all the way to the west coast.

“The first time I got there, it was mindblowing and not something I pictured. It’s a really beautiful city,” Kucera said.

Carter, who’s excelled at cross country and track for his four years as a State qualifier, always had a continuation of his gifts in mind.

“I was getting contacted by D1 schools. I think going to State multiple times and being the best in the NIB-12 prepared me,” Carter said.

Strang, headed to Division 1-AA territory, echoes her distance counterpart.

“I’m glad to move on,” Strang said. “Running is such a part of me. I have so much passion for it. My teammates and (coach Doug) Ecker helped me through it all and help keep that. I just want to continue getting better and keep my love for it.”

Commonplace among the Knight athletes that get picked is a flexibility that comes with the wide-eyed enthusiasm.

“I’ll be able to go anywhere, and wherever they need me next year,” Carter said. “I just want to compete with the best.”

Kaneland’s presence of Division I athletes, which includes the trio of Lanie Callaghan (Valparaiso), Lexi Roach (Youngstown State) and Lauren Zick (St. John’s) that committed to D-I softball outfits in late 2013, not only have the athletic talent, but also seem to know what to expect.

For those that have seen the group in action, that comes as no surprise.

060

2014 Softball Preview: A slugger’s chance

Photo: Junior All-State catcher Paige Kuefler drives a ball off the tee during a recent practice indoors.
Photo by Patti Wilk

Kaneland softball lineup primed and ready for ’14 season
KANELAND—With a regional rally at Rosary that fell just short last May, it would be easy to be discouraged.

But Kaneland softball brings back a wealth of talent in all aspects of the game.

“It’s impossible to put that feeling in the past, because they’re going to know it when the time comes,” fifth-year head coach Brian Willis said. “It left a bad taste in our mouths. Rosary played well; we didn’t. That’s sports.”

KHS finished 24-4, but still has much to prove after last season’s end. Even with the loss of six seniors from the 2013 squad, the Lady Knights sport two Division I signees in top-of-the-order hitter Lexi Roach (Youngstown State) and middle-order presence Lanie Callaghan, both All-State.

More help is always available for the squad that has lost just 11 games in the last two seasons on the way to back-to-back Northern Illinois Big XII titles.

Seniors include infielders Roach, Allie Miller and Hayley Contorno, and outfielders Callaghan and Caroline Heimerdinger. Juniors are Burlington Central transfer Angie Morrow in the pitchers’ circle, All-State slugger Paige Kuefler at catcher, infielder/pitcher Shannon Herra and pitcher/infielder Anissa Becker. Sophomores include infielder Meg Cohrs, back after an exposure to varsity play a year ago, and catcher Mary Clausen. Two freshmen join the ranks in outfielders Morgan Weber and Rachel Goress.

Becker, off of a commitment to Wisconsin, could serve as the steady presence in the pitchers’ circle.

“If you believe all the hoopla, she’s going to get the ball, but we have to see them pitch live,” Willis said. “Anissa Becker was great last year when Ellissa Eckert wasn’t throwing. We can’t throw Angie every game. We have some good competition with three pitchers.”

Kuefler provides the backstop help, with Contorno supplying the glove at first. Miller mans second base, and shortstop is up for grabs in a position battle. Cohrs gets a chance to take the mantle at third base after driving in a handful of runs a year ago.

“She had a lot more good games than bad games last year. She was a freshman last year, and hopefully she’ll stay away from the sophomore slump,” Willis said.

Manning everyday outfield looks to be Roach, Callaghan and Heimerdinger supplying upper-class experience.

The Lady Knights are looking forward to warmer weather and a spring break trip to Clarksville, Tenn.

“We’ll be playing in the gold division against some upper-echelon competition, and I have confidence in the girls,” Willis said. “We have six before we go to Tennessee, and I don’t expect to play any of them.”

With the tumultuous elements having put a wrinkle in the season opening, and a potentially tough trip in Tennessee ahead, the 2014 beginning could prove interesting.

“I don’t anticipate a big dropoff,” Willis said. “I don’t believe our older girls will lose that edge, even if the younger girls lose that confidence. They’re not going to settle.”

The Northern Illinois Big XII setting is ripe for the taking once again if the KHS lineup plays to its capabilities.

“Our record speaks for itself. The last couple of years, we were picked by coaches and the media to finish in the middle of the pack. That goes back to our pitching, I don’t think we got credit for the staff that we had and what the coaching staff does with these girls. The other teams want to take that conference championship away, and we’re going to give our best effort,” Willis said.

The season was scheduled to begin on Tuesday at home against Marengo, weather permitting. Conference action begins on Tuesday, April 15, in Ogle County against Rochelle.

Kaneland softball will be brandishing cans during the season for its “Change for Cancer” promotion for donation to Delnor’s Cancer Center, while partnering with Rochelle for its traditional cancer awareness game on May 8.

Signing November 13

Raising their game

Kaneland High School softball players Lauren Zick (left to right), Lexi Roach and Lanie Callaghan signed their college intent papers on Nov. 13 at the KHS library, surrounded by teammates, family and coaches. Zick signed with St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y.; Roach signed with Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio; and Callaghan signed with Valaparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind. Photo by Kimberly Anderson

Three Lady Knights sign letters with D-I softball programs

by Mike Slodki

KANELAND—Lady Knights athletes are not only continuing their respective games beyond Kaneland, they’re doing so in a big way.

The latest was the Nov. 13 letter of intent signing of softball star Lanie Callaghan to suit up for the Valparaiso Crusaders softball program in the 2014-15 school year.

The Crusaders, part of the Horizon League of Division I fame, can welcome a middle-of-the-order outfielder who has a 2012 regional championship under her belt.

The feeling is mutual on Callaghan’s part.

“The coaches are amazing,” she said of Valparaiso’s program. “We had to follow guidelines of when we could talk. But coach (Jordan) Stevens really made an effort. I fell in love with the program.”

Callaghan, one of seven signees to the “Valpo” program, will join Lexi Roach, who chose the Youngstown State University team, and Lauren Zick, who is headed to St. John’s University in New York, as Lady Knights to recently sign letters with D-1 softball programs.

Callaghan, who battled illness and injury to begin her varsity career as a freshman, has been a slugging force on the Lady Knights team, coached by Brian Willis, and she’s provided a deft glove presence, as well.

The Elburn resident feels fortunate to have another year to improve her skills and to drive in runs for the Lady Knights program, which fell in a dramatic regional final in May.

“We were disappointed with how the last season ended against Rosary. The players will be ready to step up. I think I’ve matured as a player and speak up more. We’re going to miss the seniors that left, and the juniors from last year are going to have big shoes to fill,” Callaghan said.

The Crusaders program, located in Valparaiso, Ind., has gathered 77 victories in coach Stevens’ three years, and has Chicagoland-area flavor familiar to Kaneland fans, with players from locales including Huntley and Lisle, Ill.

What’s appealing to Callaghan is not only the proximity to the Chicago metro area, but also to family elsewhere, specifically older brother Tyler, who just completed his junior football season for the Division II St. Joseph’s Pumas of Indiana.

“I consider myself very close with him,” Lanie said. “It’ll be close enough for family, and I can visit them if I’m home sick.”

Lanie, who has also brandished a right-handed bat for the Kane County XPlosion team, coached by Rick Neubauer, plans to major in nursing.

“They’ll always need nurses, and after talking with some of the professors, I could tell they were really dedicated,” Lanie said.

The Crusaders softball team will begin their 2014 spring season as part of the Hampton Inn Invitation in Blues Creek, N.C., on February 7, 2014.

Roach, who has done a great service to Kaneland softball with top-of-the-order talent, heads to Youngstown, Ohio, to try and take care of business within the Penguins lineup in 2014.

“I’m a slap hitter, and I have to move the runners around,” Roach said. “I just have to focus on what I can do this year and next year.”

Roach, who had visited Manhattan College in New York, went through the college search with the feeling that people she came across had her best interests at heart.
“My travel team (Wasco Diamonds) was able to send video of me playing to Youngstown State. The assistant coach handled most of the recruiting and asked how I was feeling; the college had me speak with professors. I want to be a wedding planner, which is kind of rare. They had me talk to an event planner,” Roach said. “I’d like to travel abroad to Spain or Italy once I’m in school. It seemed other schools were putting softball first, but Youngstown knew I won’t be playing softball forever and that school comes first.”

Roach is thankful the pressure is off when it comes to one of the most important decisions she’ll make in her young life.

“There would be travel showcases, and we’d play in tournaments and I’d be thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have to be perfect,” Roach said. “Now I think all I have to do is stay focused.”

The Horizon League outfit, located in a city hit by economic woes, still looks to feel home to the Kaneland senior.

“It’s been hit hard by the economy,” Roach said. ‘But the campus is beautiful, and they’ve re-done the campus and have new athletic facilities.”

Zick, who has mastered the business of state qualifying for Lady Knights track, will bring her talent to Big East Conference staple St. Johns, which has isolated charm even in a big city.

“It’s actually in Queens, and the campus is gated and away from the city. It’s almost like Sugar Grove like that,” Zick said.

Zick, who plays off the beaten path in the travel softball circuit for the New Lenox Lightning, had a seemingly built-in connection to the school.

“The assistant coach, who handled most of the recruiting, is from the Chicago area and knew the Lightning coaching staff, so he was sent video and then I was able to come for a visit,” Zick said.

The top-of-the-order asset is ready for the new experience.

“My first time on the subway in New York was an experience,” Zick said. “The team is a different kind of team. They have some girls from California, so it’ll be a new experience, too.”

Having spoken with professors and wishing to major in biology or chemistry enroute to the radiology field, Zick looks forward to the D-1 challenge.

“I’m glad that part of it is over, and that this is more of the direction I’m going to go,” she said.

Three softball signings at KHS


Three Kaneland High School softball standouts signed with three separate universities on Nov. 13 in the KHS library in front of their teammates, families and coaches. Lauren Zick signed with St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y., Lexi Roach signed with Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, and Lanie Callaghan signed with Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind.

zick1

Lightning quick

Photo: Kaneland Knights fans know Lauren Zick: Track Athlete. But the senior has verbally committed to play softball for St. John’s University, located in Queens, N.Y. Speedy on the track as well as the basepaths, Zick plays softball for the New Lenox Lightning, and runs for the KHS track and field team in the spring. Courtesy of Mike Gombar

Kaneland’s Zick excels on diamond
KANELAND—Lauren Zick’s athletic career at Kaneland certainly has taken a unique path.

Zick verbally committed to play softball for St. John’s University last summer, yet the senior has never stepped into the batter’s box wearing a Knights’ uniform. Instead of circling the bases for Kaneland’s softball team in the spring, she circles the track for the Knights girls track and field squad as a sprinter and long jumper.

So, the question begs asking: You’re getting a full ride to St. John’s for softball, but you run track?

Well, Zick is quite a talented track athlete, too, having qualified for the state meet each of the past three years.

“She was running times that were state-qualifying times in high school as an eighth-grader,” said Keith Snyder, the Knights’ sprints and relays coach. “We (the Kaneland track and field coaches) held out hope she’d choose track, and luckily she did.”

Zick was being recruited to run track collegiately, but she’s had to inform recruiters that she’s agreed to attend St. John’s on a softball scholarship.

“I’ve had various schools show interest in me,” she said. “I’ve gotten letters and stuff. I’ve had to tell a few colleges that have given me calls that I’m committed to softball.”

In addition to loving track, Zick explains that the sport helps her hone her softball skills; specifically, improving her speed as a leadoff hitter, as well as her strength.

“Overall, I thought track would help me with softball with my speed and my start (out of the batter’s box),” she said. “My starts for a leadoff hitter weren’t as explosive. I’ve gained a lot of muscle and physical strength through track; we have a pretty rigorous lifting schedule and lift three to four times a week.”

However, it’s not as if she hasn’t considered suiting up and playing softball for the Knights.

“There’s always been the temptation,” she said. “Coaches talk to me every year, asking if I’d come out.”

Even though she doesn’t play for her high school team, Zick logs plenty of innings throughout the year as a leadoff hitter and center fielder with the New Lenox Lightning travel team. The Lightning’s summer schedule includes around 80 games. She’s currently in the final stretch of the club’s fall schedule, which is between 30 to 40 games. In fact, Zick and her teammates are heading to Orlando, Fla., for a fall showcase tournament that’s being held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

These types of tournaments are usually attended by many college coaches and scouts, Zick noted. Zick, who next summer will be part of the Lightning’s U18 Gold team, got the exposure to college coaches she needed by playing for the Lightning. The Lightning, she added, places 100 percent of their players who graduate from the program with college teams.

“I knew that since I didn’t play high school softball, I needed the exposure,” she said.

Zick’s coach with the Lightning contacted St. John’s because he knew they were looking for a girl in Zick’s graduating class (2014) to replace the team’s current center fielder—a senior who’ll be graduating next spring.

“It was beautiful,” Zick said of the campus at St. John’s, located in Queens, N.Y. “It’s completely different than Illinois. It’s a pretty area and I like how close it is to big city; it’s fun and there’s a lot to do.”

The coaching staff at St. John’s wants Zick to continue working on her skills as a slap hitter, which is an important part of the Red Storm’s game. Zick is a natural right-handed hitter who was converted to a left-handed slap hitter.

“I think the hardest challenge for me (making the switch) was seeing the ball from different angle,” she said. “You use the left eye for visualization from right side (as a right-handed hitter), and you use your right eye for visualization as a left-handed hitter. I still work on the visualization of it all.”

She talks to Red Strom coaches regularly as she prepares herself to join the team for their 2014 fall season.
“They’re checking in on me, asking what my stats are and what I’m working on,” Zick said. “They have a pretty quick lineup; all their outfielders are slappers. They basically told me as a freshman that I should expect to make an impact. There’s always going to be competition and your spot obviously is not guaranteed.

“It’s definitely going to be a lot of work. I can’t wait; I’m so excited to improve myself and play at the caliber level that I’m going to play at.”

But before you know it, it’ll be track season again. Snyder says the sky’s the limit for Zick in regard to what she could accomplish next spring.

“I would say that with her and the team, we have some pretty high hopes,” he said. “She has the potential to be all-state (in) anywhere up to four events. She has that kind of ability. The long jump and 200 (meter dash) are her favorite events. We’re going to look at the 100 and 400, or the 4×100 or 4×200. Whatever looks like the best chance to help out and get state medals.”

“I definitely want to be able to do well enough (in track),” Zick said, “so when I look back in the future, I can be proud of what I do while I did have the time competing in track.”

O-Herron_FilePhoto

O’Herron recognized as one of Illinois’ elite

Lady Knight shortstop earns 2nd-team ICA, 3 others get 3rd team
KANELAND—Winona State University in Minnesota already knew it was gaining a talented ballplayer on its softball team for the 2013-14 season.

The honor bestowed upon Kaneland High School Class of 2013 athlete Allyson O’Herron on June 21 from the Illinois Coaches Association confirms it.

O’Herron was named to the second team of the ICA Class 3A All-State team.

Also a standout perimeter shooter in the winter, O’Herron impressed the association by hitting .506 during the latest season, which ended in the regional title game to Rosary.

O’Herron was joined by third-teamers catcher Paige Kuefler and outfielders Lexi Roach and Lanie Callaghan.

“It was always a goal to get something like this,” O’Herron said. “With three more getting this, it proves what talent we had. They’re returning next year and they’ll get even better.”

O’Herron already had the athletic goods joining the KHS ranks at the turn of the decade, but feels improvement came along the way.

“I think my maturity and knowledge of the game improved, and as I gained confidence I took on more of a leadership role,” O’Herron said.

O’Herron’s role in 2014 remains fluid, but looks to contribute in any way.

“They might have me play at second or third. There’s nothing like hitting second in the order, especially with a quick leadoff hitter,” O’Herron said.

Winona State finished 37-14, with a 17-5 mark in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

file photo

limbrunner

2013 Spring Athletic Banquet Awards

The Kaneland High School Athletics Department on Thursday, June 6, announced the award winners for varsity high school athletics.

Below are those winners.

Knight Award

for three-sport athletes:
Ashley Castellanos—Cross Country,
Basketball, Track and Field;
Sarah Grams—Tennis, Basketball, Softball;
Brooke Harner—Tennis, Basketball, Soccer;
Dan Miller—Golf, Basketball, Baseball
Female Athlete of the Year: Sarah Grams
Male Athlete of the Year: Matt Limbrunner
Female Birkette Award: Sarah Grams
Male Birkette Award: Dan Miller

2013 Spring NIBXII
All Conference

Girls Track:
Brianna Bower, Ashley Castellanos, Victoria Clinton, Christina Delach, Allie Heinzer, Jessica Kucera, Amanda Lesak, Aislinn Lodwig, Sydney Strang, Lauren Zick, Abby Dodis, Kyla Goodine, Kaltrina Ismaili, Rachel Steinmiller, Elle Tattoni
Boys Track:
Dylan Kuipers, Kory Harner, Tanner Andrews, Nate Dyer, Brandon Cottier, Brandon Bishop, Ben Barnes, Isaac Swithers, Conor Johnson, Nathaniel Kucera, Kyle Carter, Luis Acosta, Dylan Nauert
Girls Soccer:
Jordan Ginther, Delaney Stryczek, Madi Jurcenko, Courtney Diddell, Sage Schlehofer
Softball:
Hayley Contorno, Allyson O’Herron, Lanie Callaghan, Lexi Roach, Paige Kuefler
Baseball:
Matt Limbrunner, Dan Miller, Tyler Carlson

2013 Boys
Track and Field Awards

MVP—Track: Dylan Nauert
MVP—Field: Tanner Andrews
Drendel Award: Jay Markuson
Captains:
Conor Johnson, Kory Harner, Brad Kigyos, Brandon Cottier, Marshall Farthing, John Meisenger
Ron Probst Award: Ben Barnes
All Conference:
Dylan Kuipers, Kory Harner, Tanner Andrews, Nate Dyer, Brandon Cottier, Brandon Bishop, Ben Barnes, Isaac Swithers, Conor Johnson, Nathaniel Kucera, Kyle Carter, Luis Acosta, Dylan Nauert
State Qualifiers:
Conor Johnson and Kyle Carter—
4x800m, 4x400m Relays;
Luis Acosta—4x800m Relay;
Nathaniel Kucera—4x800m,
4x400m relays, 400m Dash;
Brandon Bishop and Brandon Cottier—
4x100m Relay, 200m Dash;
Ben Barnes—4x100m Relay;
Dylan Nauert—4x100m Relay, 4x400m Relay,
110m Hurdles, 300m Hurdles;
Tanner Andrews—Triple Jump;
Marshall Farthing—High Jump;
Nate Dyer—Shot Put;
Dylan Kuipers and Kory Harner—Pole Vault

2013 Girls
Track and Field Awards

MVP: Ashley Castellanos, Lauren Zick
Most Improved:
Murphy Garcia, Kyla Goodine
Captains:
Maggie Brundige, Ashley Castellanos,
Abby Dodis
State Qualifiers:
Brianna Bower—3200m Run;
Victoria Clinton—1600m Run;
Ashley Castellanos—Triple Jump,
4x400m Relay;
Amanda Lesak—4x800m Relay,
4x400m Relay;
Sydney Strang—4x800m Relay;
Lauren Zick—4x400m Relay, Long Jump;
Christina Delach—Pole Vault;
Allie Heinzer—4x400m Relay;
Jessica Kucera—4x800m Relay;
Aislinn Lodwig—4x800m Relay

2013 Varsity Girls
Soccer Awards

Captains:
Jordan Ginther, Anne Marie Giese,
Brooke Harner
Most Improved Player: Emily Grams
Rookie of the Year:
Sage Schlehofer, Kiandra Powell
Coach’s Award:
Courtney Diddell, Heather Ortiz,
Delaney Stryczek
Lady Knights Award:
Michelle Ortiz, Brittany Olson,
Madison Jurcenko
Most Valuable Player: Jordan Ginther
All Conference:
Sage Schlehofer, Jordan Ginther, Delaney Stryczek, Madison Jurcenko, Courtney Diddell
All Conference-Honorable Mention:
Kiandra Powell

2013 Softball Awards
Defensive Player of the Year:
Hayley Contorno
Offensive Player of the Year:
Allyson O’Herron, Lexi Roach
Lady Knight Award: Lexi Roach
Captains: Allyson O’Herron, Lanie Callaghan
NiB-12 All Conference:
Paige Kuefler, Hayley Contorno, Allyson
O’Herron, Lexi Roach, Lanie Callaghan
All Conference Honorable Mention:
Sarah Grams, Ellissa Eckert
Conference MVP: Allyson O’Herron

2013 Boys Baseball Award
Mr. Kaneland Baseball: Dan Miller
MVP Offensive: Matt Limbrunner
MVP Defensive: Joe Pollastrini, Dan Miller
Most Improved Player: Tyler Bellock
NIBXII All Conference:
Matt Limbrunner, Dan Miller, Tyler Carlson
All Conference Honorable Mention:
Joshua Cohrs, Tyler Bellock

Softball_May25_6

Valiant comeback falls short

Softball eliminated despite six-run flurry in seventh inning
AURORA—The end of Saturday’s Class 3A Rosary Regional final is something Kaneland fans will remember for quite awhile.

Kaneland softball wishes there was more to the season than mere memories, however.

Falling behind 7-0 to No. 2 seed Rosary on Saturday morning, the top seed Lady Knights put together an exciting six-run rally before falling just short in a 7-6 loss.

Kaneland finished the season at 24-4, while Rosary improved to 13-18. The Lady Royals were scheduled to face perennial powerhouse Marengo at Wednesday’s Rochelle Sectional semifinal.

The Lady Knights captured a regional title last year at IMSA against Yorkville before being dethroned by Sterling at the Belvidere North Sectional, and seemed to have odds in its favor after a recent doubleheader sweep of Rosary, as well as a five-inning rout of Sandwich in the regional semi last week.

Rosary put up one run in the top of the second for a 1-0 lead, and KHS had a two-out opportunity with two runners in scoring position, but came up empty.

After Rosary put up two more runs in the top of the fourth for a 3-0 lead, the Lady Knights had the bases loaded with one out, but a fielder’s choice and groundout were induced by Rosary to extinguish the threat.

The Lady Royals tallied three in the fifth and one more in the sixth for a sizable lead, setting the drama for the last frame.

With one out, Lexi Roach and Aly O’Herron both singled before Lanie Callaghan drove home a run with a single to finally get on the board.

Catcher Paige Kuefler proceeded to smack a three-run homer to right field to close the deficit to 7-4, and was followed by Sarah Grams’ solo shot in her final Kaneland at-bat to make it 7-5.

Meg Cohrs doubled, and Allie Miller lined out to right. Haley Contorno hit a double to the wall to drive Cohrs home, cutting the lead to one. With the tying run in scoring position, Caroline Heimerdinger grounded out to the pitcher to end the game.

Ellissa Eckert took the loss in the pitchers’ circle.

“You have to take advantage of every opportunity, both offensively and defensively,” KHS coach Brian Willis said. “We didn’t do it early in the game. Until the last inning, it seemed every ball we hit hard went right at them.”

With the elimination, the Kaneland program bids farewell to the season with a core of seniors Grams, O’Herron, Morgan Newhouse, Taylor Krawczyk, Kristin Gabrielson and Eckert.

“I’m proud of the way they did win two back-to-back conference championships and a lot of victories,” Willis said. “They’ve only lost 11 games in two years. This is a painful one to lose, but Rosary gets credit today.”

Photos by Kimberly Anderson

Taking care of business

KHS begins regional with rout over Sandwich
KANELAND—Lady Knights softball continues to roll.

In the case of DeKalb, Rosary and Sandwich, it was over the opponents.

Kaneland clinched the outright claim of Northern Illinois Big XII champions after the 4-0 blanking of the Lady Barbs last Thursday, and followed it up with a 10-3 and 16-6 twin sweep of visiting Rosary on Saturday before crushing the Sandwich Lady Indians in the Class 3A Rosary Regional semifinal, 10-0 in five innings.

NIB-12 champion Kaneland is now 24-3 (9-1 Northern Illinois Big XII) headed into this weekend’s play.

Against the rival Lady Barbs, Ellissa Eckert earned the win in the pitcher’s circle. Leadoff presence Lexi Roach scored two runs, while cleanup slugger Lanie Callaghan homered off DeKalb pitching.

After stockpiling 26 runs against the Lady Royals over weekend play—including 17 hits in game two—to officially close out the 2013 regular season, Kaneland took over as top seed in the Aurora-based regional to subdue Sandwich. The Lady Indians earned the right to face KHS after a Monday win over IMSA, 27-5.

”I was pleased all-around,” KHS coach Brian Willis said. “Defensively and with the pitching, and of course, scoring 10 runs helps, too. I wouldn’t say they got on another level, but they’re at the level they’re capable of being at. That helps everybody else get going.”

Eckert didn’t allow a hit in the five-inning affair. Kaneland broke a scoreless tie with a six-run second inning that featured triples by Sarah Grams and Meg Cohrs (two RBI), with Haley Contorno, Caroline Heimerdinger and Lexi Roach getting run-scoring hits.

In the bottom of the third, Allie Miller scored on an RBI single by Roach to make it 7-0.

The three-run explosion by Kaneland would end the contest early, beginning with back-to-back singles by Contorno and Miller, with Cohrs reaching on an error.

Heimerdinger singled to make it 8-0, followed by game-ending walks drawn by Roach and Aly O’Herron for the victory.

Miller thinks she can help the lineup continue with a torrid pace.

“I’ve been seeing the ball so much better,” Miller said. “I’ve improved my swing. I’m smarter when I’m hitting, and everything is coming together this year.”

Kaneland is set to face either (2) Rosary or (3) Plano in the regional title game on Saturday, May 25, at 11 a.m.

Battle for the top

Lady Knights’ conference race goes down to the wire
KANELAND—With the end of the regular season in sight, the Kaneland High School softball team finds itself battling for the top spot in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference.

“We’re going to have to go out and earn it if we want a solo championship,” head coach Brian Willis said. “They’re a tight-knit group that play well together and they encourage each other, and I think that helps if somebody starts getting down.”

On Saturday in Sterling, the Lady Knights escaped with a close 5-4 win. Against the non-conference host Plainfield North Tigers, the KHS crew used a seven-run seventh inning under cloudy skies for an 11-4 win.

On Thursday in Sycamore, Kaneland won 6-4. The Lady Knights improved to a stellar 19-3 with an 8-1 tally in Northern Illinois Big XII conference play, earning at least a tie in conference action. KHS has won five in a row.

With a close win over the conference crossover Golden Warriors, the bats came out in full force against the Plainfield North team.

The Knights broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fourth inning helped by four hits, including RBI singles from Caroline Heimerdinger and Meg Cohrs; a Maddie Hester hit was mishandled by the pitcher to bring the third run home.

Plainfield North took advantage of opportune hits and smacked a three-run homer to tie the game before tacking one on for a 4-3 lead.

Cohrs tied the game with a run-scoring double in the top of the sixth, setting the stage for the top of the seventh, which got the win for reliever Ellissa Eckert.

Eleven batters came to plate in the inning. Heimerdinger’s at-bat resulting in an E-6 brought Aly O’Herron home to break the tie, and Cohrs earned her fourth RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly to right. After a walk to Hester, Sarah Grams torched a ball for a three-run double to the wall to break the game wide open. Lexi Roach had an RBI triple, and O’Herron added a run-scoring single to cap the immense rally.

Cohrs’ big day, featuring a double and four RBI, was sizable on its own, meaning more that it was able to help a rally.

“I was able to hit a changeup, which was good, because I sometimes have trouble staying back,” Cohrs said. “I just ripped it to centerfield, and it was really rewarding.”

Willis was glad with the late-inning heroics.

“We stayed resilient once we gave up that lead,” he said. “We came back, and I thought we hit the ball real hard the last couple innings, especially that last inning. We hit line drives and made their defense work hard.”

Against Sycamore, Roach went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI, while O’Herron went 3-for-4 with four RBI and her first career home run.

The Lady Knights face off against DeKalb on Thursday, May 16, at 4:30 p.m. in Maple Park.

#18 homerun

Protecting the lead

Softball faces off against NIB-12 foes Yorkville, Morris
Kaneland—At 15-3, and 7-1 in the Northern Illinois Big XII, Kaneland tried to keep the positive momentum going with a pair of conference wins this week.

Last Thursday’s win over Yorkville dropped the Lady Foxes to 13-8 and 5-2 in the NIB-12. KHS managed to get four runs across in the top of the third and one more in the fifth, making sure the Yorkville run in the seventh was all for naught.

Leadoff presence Lexi Roach had three hits for the victors, while Allie Miller had three RBI to go along with Lanie Callaghan’s additional run scoring hit. Paige Kuefler added a double to the party.

Staff ace Ellissa Eckert nabbed the win in the pitcher’s circle.

Against Morris on Tuesday, Kaneland ran out to a 7-2 win, largely thanks to the bat of Kuefler and the arm of Eckert. Kuefler led the team at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored.

Eckert pitched a complete game, scattering eight hits and two runs (one earned).
A matchup scheduled for Monday at Oswego East was shelved due to OE making up a conference game with Oswego.

The Lady Knights will travel to Sycamore on Thursday, May 9, with a 4:30 p.m. game time.

‘Round the bases

Softball squad goes 4-1 in packed week
KANELAND—The Lady Knights softball team made its way around the Northern Illinois Big XII this past week and handled itself well.

On April 24, a trip to Morris yielded a 9-6 win, followed by a win in DeKalb on Thursday by 4-3 fashion. Saturday saw a crossover doubleheader against Geneseo split with an 8-3 win and a 13-10 extra-inning defeat.

The Lady Knights came back on Tuesday against Rochelle and steamrolled the visitors in a 9-0 rout.

The Lady Knights sit at 13-3 and 5-1 in NIB-12 play.

Against Morris, the Lady Knights stormed out to an 8-0 lead, with two runs in the second, four in the third and two in the fourth, until the Lady Redskins came back with a close rally.

Sarah Grams smacked a two-run homer, while freshman callup Courtney Davis earned the win.

Against the host Lady Barbs, the Lady Knights staked an initial lead, 4-0, before DeKalb creeped back into the game with three runs in the sixth for the slimmer final margin. Ellissa Eckert earned the win.

Sophomore Paige Kuefler went 3-for-4 with three RBI, while teammate Aly O’Herron went 2-for-3 with a double.

Eckert took the win in the first game, while Geneseo used five runs in the ninth, which was enough to withstand a two-run rally in the bottom of the inning.

Facing the Lady Hubs, an O’Herron single paved the way for a Kuefler homer to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.

“I think it was an outside pitch,” Kuefler said. “So I drove it. Our lineup is pretty solid right now.”

A four-run fourth inning saw an RBI groundout from Allie Miller after a Grams triple. Eckert helped her cause with an RBI single after Meg Cohrs advanced to third on an error in right field. Lexi Roach singled and O’Herron smacked a two-run double to put the game out of reach.

Eckert helped the fielders by inducing a number of groundouts, some to herself.

“The defense was solid and the pitching was solid, and it was an all-around good game,” KHS coach Brian Willis said. “Ellissa has pitched fine. She still needs to work on some stuff in terms of consistency and location if we’re going to go very far. But she’s making progress and working hard.”

Kaneland softball continues its run on Thursday, May 2, in Yorkville for a NIB-12 tussle.

Softball takes tussle with host Oswego

by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—It seems par for the course that every week in the spring 2013 season shall bring with it postponement and cancellations.

Kaneland softball can only try to worry about what’s in front of it on a given day, weather or not.

With the April 17 game at Morris postponed and the Thursday contest at Dixon cancelled, the Lady Knights took a trip to their lone game of the week on a beautiful Monday afternoon.

Kaneland came away from Kendall County with a 7-4 victory over the winless Oswego Lady Panthers.
KHS sits at 9-2, and 2-1 in Northern Illinois Big XII Conference play.
Originally down 1-0 after the first inning, Kaneland came back with a run in the top of the second and two in the third, before OHS scored another run in the bottom of that inning to close within 3-2.

The Lady Knights were able to breathe easier with three in the top of the fourth to go up 6-2. It would remain scoreless until the sixth, when the Lady Knights crossed the plate again before surrendering two in the bottom of the sixth. The victory came despite four errors committed in the field by Kaneland, compared to two for Oswego.

Courtney Davis started in the pitchers’ circle, going five innings and allowing two runs on three hits, while Anissa Becker and Ellissa Eckert finished the win in relief.

At the plate, slugging presence Lanie Callaghan went 3-for-4 with an RBI.

Ahead for the Lady Knights lineup was the rescheduled conference matchup at Morris on Wednesday, with results not available for press, and a matchup on Thursday, April 25, at DeKalb. The Morris encounter takes the place of an original crossover contest at LaSalle-Peru.

Tight contest goes Lady Knights’ Way

Heimerdinger hit wins it in bottom of 7th against Sycamore
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Looks like three cancellations this past week just delayed the inevitable.

But the win over visiting Sycamore on Tuesday afternoon for KHS softball was anything but.

Muddling through shelved contests with Morris and Maine West, the Lady Knights took to the field against Sycamore and went out to a 3-0 lead before Sycamore put up a three-spot in the top of the sixth.

Kaneland took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the inning before the visitors deadlocked it again.

It was a Caroline Heimerdinger bases-loaded single to drive Sarah Grams home with the winning run with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh to cinch a 5-4 win.

Kaneland is now 8-2 and 3-0 in the Northern Illinois Big XII landscape.

The scoring began with cleanup hitter Lanie Callaghan’s two-run shot to left field for a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first.

Kaneland failed to get any runs out of a bases loaded chance in the bottom of the third.

It remained 2-0 until the bottom of the fourth when Aly O’Herron’s sacrifice fly brought home Heimerdinger.

Sycamore finally struck in the sixth, first on a two-run homer, and then stacking runners until a flyball to right evaded Callaghan’s attempt, tying the contest.

Three consecutive Lady Knights reached base, ending with Paige Kuefler’s RBI single that drove in Lexi Roach to make it 4-3.

Ellissa Eckert (W) relieved starter Annisa Becker in the seventh, but Sycamore tied the score at 4.

In the bottom of the seventh, Grams doubled and Hayley Contorno singled. Allison Miller was hit by a pitch to load the bases, setting the stage for Heimerdinger’s third and decisive hit.

“That was clutch by Caroline, but we left a lot of baserunners out there,” KHS coach Brian Willis said. “I don’t know if the odds were with us and we were due for a hit there, but Caroline did strike the ball well all day.”

“I was told it needs to be in the outfield so that’s the only thing I was looking for,” Heimerdinger said. “I mostly put it out of my head when we were tied.”

Kaneland was set to travel to Morris on Wednesday, before heading to Dixon for a crossover contest on Thursday, April 18.

Softball returns to regular action

Following weather delays and road trip, KHS finds consistency
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—It was good to finally take to the softball diamond on Illinois soil. The experience on Thursday was made even better with a handy win. With Ellissa Eckert’s effort on the mound and key hitting in scoring position, the Lady Knights beat the host Rochelle roster by a 10-4 final on Thursday.

In Rochelle, things escalated quickly for the Kaneland bats, as two of the first three hitters reached on errors. With two runners in scoring position, Lanie Callaghan knocked a single for a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Sarah Grams hit a single for two more runs and a 3-0 lead.

In the top of the third and with a 3-1 lead, Haley Contorno was hit by a pitch and came home on an RBI triple from Grams. Eckert then helped her own cause with a squeeze play that ended in a run scored and a 5-1 edge.

In the top of the fifth and with Rochelle closing to within 5-2, Callaghan tripled and Meg Cohrs walked. After a stolen base put runners in scoring position, Grams’ single resulted in her fourth RBI of the day. After a grounder to third by Eckert, the lead increased to 7-1 in the fifth.

A steadfast hitter, Grams was just glad to contribute to the offensive effort on the day.

“I was just happy I put the ball in play and on the ground so my runners could actually score,” Grams said. “That was my main concern, just putting it in play so I could get runners in.”

Paige Kuefler’s RBI double and an RBI single by Cohrs gave Kaneland a 10-2 lead in the sixth to cinch matters.

KHS coach Brian Willis said that any quality at-bat helps the squad after a start-and-stop beginning to 2013.

“Certainly Sarah was seeing the ball well,” Willis said. “I thought we struggled a little bit with our timing today. We did have a few good quality at-bats and that helped us at the right time.”

Against former conference rival Batavia, Kaneland scored 11 runs in the first inning, three more in the second, one in the third and two in the fourth. Eckert improved to 4-0 on the season.

West Aurora failed to hit Lady Knight sophomore Anissa Becker on Monday, and fell in the 1-0 squeaker.

Against Yorkville on Tuesday, the Lady Knights held a 3-1 lead until the top of the seventh, when Yorkville put up three runs to take the lead and steal the victory. KHS suffered from seven errors in the game.

Eckert took the loss on the mound, spreading eight hits over seven innings of work, and surrendering just two unearned runs. Allyson O’Herron led the team from the plate, hitting 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Kaneland now stands at 7-2 overall, 1-1 in Northern Illinois Big XII East Division play.

Future action for KHS has the Lady Knights traveling to Morris for a conference tilt on Thursday, April 11, at 4:30 p.m.

Lady Knights start season out of state

Kaneland—Dealing with numerous cancellations locally, the Kaneland softball squad managed to get to another state to play its initial slate of games over spring break.

After venturing to Tennessee in 2012, the Lady Knights venture in 2013 took them to the 3rd Annual Oldham County Spring Break Classic in Buckner, Ky., near Louisville.

KHS ended the Friday and Saturday jaunts going 3-1.

The hosts, Oldham County, currently the eighth-ranked team in Kentucky, beat Jackson High School of Ohio to capture the tournament mantle and go 5-0.

The Lady Knights beat Collins High School, 11-0 to begin the tournament, followed by an 8-1 win in four innings over Conner High School.

The only team from Ill., to make the trip down, Kaneland went into bracket play beating Revere High School of Ohio before succumbing to eventual runner-up, Jackson.

Kaneland begins conference play on Thursday, April 4, in Ogle County against the host Lady Hubs of Rochelle at 4:30 p.m.

Weather delays season start

Kaneland—The cold and lingering snow forced Kaneland to cancel all outdoor sporting events through at least Saturday, March 23.

Officials made the decision due to a combination of predicted cold temperatures that would make some of the sports unsafe to play outdoors, as well as poor field conditions with the remaining snow on the ground.

According to Kaneland Athletics Department Secretary Linda Kelley, revised practice schedules and specific locations will be determined by each sport’s coaching staff. She said that schools will try to reschedule conference games as soon as possible, while non-conference games may end up being cancelled outright.

As of press time, KHS sports schedules will return to normal on Monday, March 25.

Kaneland baseball, softball host poker fundraiser

Kaneland—The Elburn Community Center, 525 N. Main St., will be the site of a Kaneland High School baseball and softball program poker night on Friday, March 22.

Proceeds will support both programs.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., with the games beginning at 6:30 p.m. The main tournament has a $75 buy-in, while there will also be multiple $25 speed tournaments that start every hour.

The event is for those 21 and older only. For information, contact Brian Willis at brian.willis@kaneland.org or Brian Aversa at brian.aversa@kaneland.org.