Photo: Samantha Hansen brings speed and bat prowess in her role as a captain for the Lady Knights softball squad in 2012. File Photo
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—An 8-1 start a year ago turned into a 14-19 finish for a softball group hoping for bigger things.
With a solid group of captains ready to pick up where graduated seniors Rilee Vest and Andrea Potts left off, KHS softball looks to experience to have a more consistent season-long outing.
Third-year coach Brian Willis makes no bones about what the team needs to do in 2012.
“If we play well every day, we’ll be in there at the end,” Willis said.
Heading up the charge to make sure the Lady Knights play well every day are Willis’ captains.
Senior pitcher Delani Vest, who has the advantage of being on the Kaneland roster from the get-go this season, brings talent from inside the pitcher’s circle.
Other senior captains include infielder Samanatha Hansen and catcher McKinzie Mangers, and junior shortstop Allyson O’Herron.
“The people that left, we can’t replace them because they were such a valuable part of our team. We need to adjust to what we have,” Willis said.
With the four captains bringing experience to the forefront, the Lady Knights don’t look to see themselves playing catch-up.
“They are four girls that have been with me since I got here, and I expect their leadership on and off the field,” Willis said.
With the rotation set-up, first and foremost will be Vest.
“She’s very focused this year and close to the form she was back as a sophomore. As a captain and with her athletic ability, she’ll be ready to go,” Willis said.
Accompanying Vest in the rotation is returning pitcher and outfielder Alexis Villarreal, a senior.
“Alexis got a lot of valuable innings last year, she worked hard in the offseason and threw an awesome game on Friday night,” Willis said.
McKinzie Mangers returns to complete the battery in her final KHS season.
Freshman Paige Kuefler mans third base, and is off to a prolific start behind the plate.
O’Herron returns at shortstop and brings consistency on the offensive and defensive end.
At second, Hansen and sophomore Allie Miller are giving coaches a tough decision.
Rosary transfer Hayley Contorno takes over at first as a sophomore, coming off good numbers in Aurora at first and hurler a year ago.
“She’s established herself not only as a solid ballplayer but a solid person,” Willis said.
In the outfield, Kaneland expects to see sophomore slugger Lanie Callaghan return to full strength next month, along with juniors Danielle McCormack, Kristen Gabrielson, Sarah Grams and Taylor Krawczyk, Morgan Newhouse and Lexi Roach looking for innings.
“We have a nice mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores. They want to keep our program strong and don’t want to go out on a negative note,” Willis said.