Tag Archives: Paige Kuefler

MorganWber

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.

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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.

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

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.

Xplosion takes 3rd in nationals

Photo: The Kane County Xplosion 16U softball team battled for a series of come-from-behind wins for the Class A Northern National Tournament. The team included Coach Don Miller (back, center); Coach Wally Spagnola (standing, left to right), Lauren Zick, Denise Gombar, Samantha Phelps, Kaylee Hayton, Allison Miller and Coach Mike Kuefler; Paige Kuefler (kneeling) and Stephanie Prentice; Emma Spagnola (sitting, left to right), Madeline Avery, McKenzie Bretag and Amanda Lack. Courtesy Photo

Kane County 16U softball team takes talents to Nebraska
North platte, neb.—With a never-say-die attitude, the Kane County Xplosion 16U softball team earned several come-from-behind victories to earn a third-place finish in the Class A Northern National Tournament in North Platte, Neb.

In game one of Pool Play, the girls beat the Echoes Adrenaline from Omaha, Neb., 6-4. Offensively, Lauren Zick and Emma Spagnola each had two hits and accounted for three of the runs, while Amanda Lack had a triple and Samantha Phelps added a double. Stephanie Prentice got the win with five strikeouts. Lauren Zick turned in the defensive play of the game with a diving catch in center field.

Game two saw the girls win 14-5 over the JR. Phoenix from Wisconsin. After falling behind 5-1, the girls put up 10 runs in the top of the fourth to blow the game wide open. Madeline Avery and Allison Miller were both 3-for-4, with Avery knocking in three runs in the fifth with her first homer of the tournament. Kaylee Hayton got the win.

The Orland Park A’s were the first opponent of Bracket Play, and after spotting them four runs in the first inning, the girls shut them out the rest of the way for a 7-4 win. McKenzie Bretag was 4-for-4 and Avery 3-for-4 to lead the team offensively, with Prentice notching the win. Kuefler was stellar at third base on defense.

Next up were the Wisconsin Bandit’s Black, and in a hard-fought game the girls came out on top with a 7-6 win. After jumping out to a quick lead, the girls found themselves behind 5-4 in the fifth. The girls were able to score two in the top of the seventh inning to come from behind for the win. Avery added her second home run of the tournament and was 3-for-4, while Kuefler and Phelps were 2-for-4.

Next up were the Bridgeview Redbirds, and once again the girls fell behind early. Kane County was down 4-0 after three innings before the bats came alive, scoring six runs in the last three innings for another come-from-behind win, 6-5. Phelps led the charge, going 3-for-3.

On Sunday, the girls came out flat for the first game and lost to the eventual champion. Kuefler notched her first home run of the tournament, and Lack went head over heels for a diving fly ball. After dropping to the loser’s bracket with three teams remaining, the girls once again faced the Bandits Black and came up one run short in the bottom of the seventh inning.

The girls finished the season at 40-15-2.

Tryouts for the Kane County Xplosion are this week; interested girls should check www.kcxplosion.com for details.

Xplosion turns clutch into success


Kane County Xplosion 16U girls earned first place at the Heartland Shootout in Moline for an ASA qualifier and took first place overall. Madeline Avery, Mackenzie Bretag, Paige Kuefler and Stephanie Prentice all hit home runs. Kaylee Hayton and Stephanie Prentice combined for a 1.08 ERA and 17 strikeouts on the mound. The Xplosion travels to Tinley Park for the next ASA qualifier this coming weekend. The team consists of (front) Madelyn Avery, Amanda Lack, Lauren Zick, Stephanie Prentice and Mackenzie Bretag, (back) Emma Spagnola, Kaylee Hayton, Samantha Phelps, Denise Gumbar, Allison Miller and Paige Kuefler. Courtesy Photo

Spring kind to Kaneland athletics in awards season

Photo: Delani Vest capped a stellar senior season for Lady Knights softball by nabbing the NIB-12 MVP honor. File photo

KANELAND—A highly successful 2011-12 spring season was recognized with team awards dished out earlier this week, as well as honors from the end-of-year senior athletic banquet.

Awards were released on June 3.

Leading the charge was sectional semifinalist softball, which boasted the Northern Illinois Big XII MVP in pitcher Delani Vest. Joining the senior on the all-conference list was Paige Kuefler, Hayley Contorno, Allyson O’Herron and McKinzie Mangers, with teammate Lexi Roach an honorable mention.

Vest, Mangers, O’Herron and Sam Hansen were recognized as captains. O’Herron was named defensive player of the year, while Roach was named most improved player. Kuefler and Lanie Callaghan were named co-offensive players of the year, while Contorno and Kristen Gabrielson took home the Lady Knight award.

The senior athletic banquet awards recognized University of Wisconsin-Whitewater bound Sean Carter as Male Athlete of the Year, Kelly Evers as Female Athlete of the Year, Clayton Brundige as the Male Birkette award winner for dedication, and both Evers and Katy Dudzinski as the Female Birkette award for dedication recipient.

For boys track, Carter was named the Track MVP, while Nate Dyer took home the Field MVP honors. Brundige and Brandon Stahl were co-winners of the Drendel Award. Brundige, Carter, Miki Marin, Stahl, Nate Rehkopf, Kelvin Peterson and Mitch Dienst were recognized as captains. Dylan Nauert was named the winner of the Ron Probst award.

Finally, Kaneland’s boys track group of Luis Acosta, Brandon Bishop, Kyle Carter, Sean Carter, Dyer, Shane Jorgensen, Nate Kucera, Nauert, Tanner Andrews, Brandon Cottier, Marshall Farthing, Kory Harner, Conor Johnson, Dylan Pennington, Brundige and Marin were recognized as All NIB-12.

Meanwhile, the 11 State qualifiers were also lauded for their trip to Eastern Illinois University.

For Knights baseball, Tom Fox, Drew Peters, John Hopkins, Trevor Storck, Jake Razo and Tyler Heinle were named to the All NIB-12 team, with Bryan VanBogaert an honorable mention.

VanBogaert, Storck and Ray Barry took home the most improved player nods, and Trever Heinle was the recipient of the 41 Award in memory of Jeff Malewig. Fox was named the offensive MVP and Tyler Heinle was named defensive MVP, with Razo nabbed Mr. Kaneland Baseball for 2012.

The girls track season yielded quite the prestigious awards, with Amanda Lesak, Jessica Kucera, Maggie Brundige, Sydney Strang, Jen Howland, Lauren Zick and Kaltrina Ismaili being recognized as state qualifiers.

Christina Delach, Nicole Ketza, Elle Tattoni, Lesak, Gabby Aguirre, Strang, Zick, Ismaili and Howland also secured Northern Illinois Big XII honors.

Carolina Tovar and Ketza were recognized for their work as captains. Lesak took home the team’s most improved trophy.

The Track MVP honor was given to Strang, while the Field MVP honor went to Tattoni.

Kaneland soccer congratulated Jess Coia, Jordan Ginther, Delaney Stryczek and Katie Taylor for making All NIB-12, while Brittany Olson made the honorable mention list.

Melissa Bohorquez, Ginther, Taylor and Taylor White were recognized as captains, while Brooke Harner was named Most Improved Player for the Lady Knights.

Courtney Diddell and Madi Jurcenko capped impressive campaigns by garnering Rookie of the Year honors.

Taylor Opperman, Heather Ortiz and Stryczek were named winners of the Coach’s Award.

Michelle Ortiz and Olson were named winners of the Lady Knights Award, while the co-MVPs were revealed as Taylor and Ginther.

Sterling softball too golden for Kaneland

Photo: Hayley Contorno slides safely into second on a hit by Sarah Grams in the second inning of Kaneland’s sectional playoff game against Sterling, hosted by Belvidere North, on May 30. Photo by John DiDonna

KHS softball (31-7) sees season end
in sectional semi

by Mike Slodki
BELVIDERE, Ill.—Kaneland softball’s season had more ups than downs in 2012.

Unfortunately, the Sterling Lady Warriors brand of diamond play made KHS land with a thud.

A Lady Knight lineup that saw the spectrum of convincing victories and dramatic comebacks in a regional championship—its first since 2005—fell victim to the pitching of Stephanie Kester and an opponent that plated nine runs in a 9-1 sectional semifinal result at Belvidere North High School on May 30.

Sterling lost to Marengo in the sectional final on Monday by a 2-1 clip.

Kaneland’s season ended at 31-7.

“They earned everything they got this year,” KHS coach Brian Willis said. “Certainly it’s encouraging that we’ll be getting people back, but it’s hard to comprehend right now and it’s disappointing to go out this way.”

Kester defeated Delani Vest in the pitching matchup in what would be Vest’s final varsity game.

But Vest contributed early with her bat after allowing a run in the top of the first inning.

After a double, Allyson O’Herron sacrificed her over to third base. Third baseman Paige Kuefler drove Vest home with a single but was thrown out at second.

Sterling scored twice in the second for a 3-1 deficit, and Kaneland would find itself with two runners on base for the last time in the game.

With one out, Hayley Contorno and Sarah Grams laced back-to-back singles, but Sam Hansen lined out and Vest popped out to end the threat.

Kaneland would get just two more hits the remainder of the game, and Sterling would put up two runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and three more in the seventh to ice the win.

While Sterling’s fielding kept the Lady Knights mostly in check, Willis would liked to have seen enough hitting for the defense to be irrelevant.

“We bunted the ball too hard, it was right to their third baseman, and I would put it more on us than I would on them.”

With the conclusion of Kaneland’s softball year, the program says goodbye to seniors Vest, Hansen, McKinzie Mangers, Alexis Villarreal and Sarah Kitz.

Softball fortunes go Northern

Photo: Lexi Roach places a bunt in the perfect spot to beat out the throw in the sixth inning of Kaneland’s 8-1 home win against Yorkville on Thursday. Photo by John DiDonna

KHS nine continues to roll after securing NIB-12 East title
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Right now, there’s no stopping the KHS softball team.

For proof, you can look at the record of 27-5, or the Northern Illinois Big XII East Division mark of 10-0, or ask what was left of the Yorkville and Plainfield North lineups after meeting the Lady Knights this week.

An 8-1 solving of the visiting Yorkville Foxes on Thursday and a five-inning, 15-5 slaughter of Plainfield North has the Lady Knight lineup sitting pretty with two regular season games left.

The Lady Knights are currently ranked third in the Illinois Coaches’ Association Class 3A poll, with former Western Sun Conference mate Glenbard South at No. 1.

The Lady Knights also learned a week ago that they’ll carry the top seed in the Class 3A IMSA Regional in Aurora, and play the winner of IMSA and Rosary next week. KHS already defeated the slated second seed, Yorkville, this week.

Against Plainfield North, Kaneland fell behind 3-0 after the first inning.

Kaneland proceeded to plate six in the bottom of the second, and after allowing two more in the top of the fourth, KHS turned offensive with three runs in the fourth and six more in the fifth for the walk-off win.

Alexis Villarreal allowed five runs on 10 hits, but still earned the win.

Yorkville took a 1-0 lead on Thursday in the first inning, but Paige Kuefler’s RBI single drove home Allyson O’Herron with a single to tie the score.

In the bottom of the third, Kuefler and Lanie Callaghan added RBI doubles for a 3-1 lead.

Callaghan, who went 3-for-3 with an RBI, was glad to get an important win over a conference rival this late in the season enroute to NIB-12 supremacy.

“We might come up against them again, and we knew we had to come out strong. Right now, our hitting is on fire,” Callaghan said.

“I’ve contributed, but I feel I’ve been in some slumps and try my best to work out of them. It was hard for me to wait.”

In the sixth inning, four of the first five batters slapped hits past Yorkville, with RBI coming from Haley Contorno and Sarah Grams, and the Lady Knights’ lead increased to 8-1.

What lies ahead for Kaneland is a doubleheader at Rosary on Saturday, May 19, before traveling to Aurora for the IMSA Regional. The first test is Wednesday, May 23, with the regional title game scheduled for Saturday, May 26.

Softball, with 24 wins, continues season steamroll

Photo: Kaneland catcher McKinzie Mangers gets ready to throw to third base in the seventh inning of their 10-1 home win against Sycamore on Thursday. Photo by Patti Wilk

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Like bills received in the mail, Kaneland softball comes at you whether you like it or not.

Sometimes its a late rally, other times a convincing route, but the Lady Knights softball roster is leaving an imprint on whomever it goes up against.

After a 10-1 rout of the visiting Lady Spartans on Thursday, and a 7-4 comeback win over visiting DeKalb on May 2, the Lady Knights are 24-5, nearly doubling last year’s win total, and caps it with an 8-0 mark in Northern Illinois Big XII play. Kaneland holds a three-game edge over DeKalb for the conference crown.

Eight runs in the final three innings of play buoyed Kaneland against Sycamore, with Sarah Grams going 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBI in the win. Righty Alexis Villarreal earned the win in five innings, allowing just a run on five hits to go with seven strikeouts. Ellissa Eckert pitched two perfect innings to secure the win.

The win over DeKalb took on a more dramatic and compelling nature, after DeKalb smashed two early homers to take a 4-3 lead after three innings. Down to its next-to-last chance, Kaneland went nuts in a four-run sixth.

KHS coach Brian Willis was happy with the end result, particularly after a rough start.

“It would have been disappointing, no question about it, especially with all the opportunities we would have left out there,” Willis said. “We had some baserunning and defensive gaffes early, but this team is resilient. They don’t quit.”

With the bases juiced and one out, Delani Vest’s grounder to shortstop was thrown away, allowing two runs to score. Allyson O’Herron and Paige Kuefler followed with RBI singles to put the game away.

Kuefler continues to plug away in the middle of the order, carrying an offensive load at times as an underclassman.

“I feel I have improved, but I’ve been in some slumps,” Kuefler said. “I try my best to work out of the slumps. On a game like today it was hard for me to wait to get up to the plate because I was so into it and I wanted to come back.”

Kaneland prepared to host Yorkville on Thursday, May 10, as the Northern Illinois Big XII slate soldiers on.

KHS seeing shine on softball diamond

KANELAND—Kaneland softball is sticking with what works.

It’s what’s produced not only a six-game win streak, but now 21 wins in its last 23 contests.

The KHS softball ranks continue to impress after a 4-2 handling of the host Lady Redskins of Morris on Thursday, and a 6-4 comeback win over the visiting Lady Pirates of Ottawa on April 25.

Kaneland (22-5, 6-0 Northern Illinois Big XII) was lifted once again by the pitching of Delani Vest, who threw all seven innings and allowed just two earned runs on four hits. Vest also fanned four batters in the win.

Against Ottawa, it was the Paige Kuefler show, as the freshman went 3-for-3 with a triple, home run and four RBI to go along with two runs scored.

Nursing a 2-1 lead after four innings, the Lady Knights surrendered a three-spot to Ottawa in the top of the fifth before answering with four runs in the bottom of the inning.

Alexis Villarreal’s six innings of four-run, nine-hit ball (5 K’s) was good for the win, with Vest picking up the save.

KHS hosts Sycamore on Thursday, May 3.

KHS softball reaches 20-win plateau

Photo: Paige Kuefler gets the runner out trying to steal third base in the fourth inning of Kaneland’s 15-1 home victory over Dixon on Saturday. Photo by John DiDonna

KANELAND—Lady Knights softball continues to hit, which may give groans to opponents that see the Kaneland lineup on its upcoming schedule.

In a twinbill with Northern Illinois Big XII West division school Dixon in Maple Park on Saturday, Kaneland brought the aluminum with a 15-1 win in game one and an 11-2 win in game two.

That accompanied a 9-3 win in Streator, Ill., against the Lady Bulldogs on Tuesday afternoon.

The Lady Knights are now 20-5 (5-0 NIB-12, and have now emerged victorious in 19 of their last 21 contests—a sharp contrast from the previous immediate stretch in which the KHS crew lost 21 of 28 games.

The Lady Knights were helped by Ellissa Eckert’s five-inning, complete game effort, in which she allowed just an earned run on four hits.

On the hitting side of the spectrum, Paige Kuefler (2-for-2, two BB, two RBI) supplied the hitting charge.

Game two had the Lady Knights put up an eight-spot in the second, two in the third and one in the fifth for all the offense needed.

The winning pitcher line took the form of Alexis Villarreal’s complete-game four hitter with 10 strikeouts to boot.

Vest took care of business on the mound at Streator, with a three-run, three-hit effort in the circle.

Catcher McKinzie Mangers’ 2-for-2 day with two walks helped the winning effort, while Allyson O’Herron went 2-for-3 with and RBI and a run scored.

Softball, now 17-5, continues to impress

KANELAND—With just one hiccup notwithstanding, Lady Knights softball continues to enjoy the feast of victory on what has become a productive 2012 regular season.

Kaneland improved to 17-5 (5-0 Northern Illinois Big XII) after a Saturday twinbill split against Maine West of Des Plaines, Ill., a handy six-inning win over host Rochelle on Thursday and an 8-3 win in Yorkville on Tuesday.

Game one on Saturday against the Lady Warriors went Kaneland’s way by a 5-3 count, with Delani Vest earning the win. Vest went the distance, allowing three runs on eight hits, while striking out five.

First baseman Hayley Contorno went 3-for-3 with a double and RBI for hitting support. Kaneland broke a 2-2 tie with a single run in the bottom of the fourth and two more in the bottom of the fifth, while Maine West could manage just one more run in the top of the sixth.

In game two, Maine West scored three runs in the top of the seventh to pull away, despite the best efforts of pitcher Alexis Villarreal (7 inn, 8 hits, three ER) and Morgan Newhouse (2-for-4).

Younger softball happenings against Maine West saw Kaneland score 13 runs in the sixth inning of game one of a twinbill, resulting in a 14-2 win. Annissa Becker took the win on the mound, along with a triple at the plate. Sam Payton went 4-for-4 with a homer and a double to her name.

Game two saw a 16-6 loss to MW.

Against Rochelle, the Lady Knights put up crooked numbers in every inning with three runs apiece in the first, third, fifth and sixth.

Vest and Villarreal combined for the win on the pitching end, while Paige Kuefler’s 3-for-4 and Contorno’s 3-for-4, triple and two RBI afternoon sealed the deal.

Against the Lady Foxes, the Lady Knights got a win on the pitching end from Vest (CG, 6 H, 3 ER, 6K), with Kuefler going 3-for-4.

The Lady Knights host Dixon in doubleheader action on Saturday, April 21.

KHS softball on tear after Tenn. trip

Photo: Shortstop Allyson O’Herron catches up to the runner trying to score and saves a run in the fourth inning of Kaneland’s 1-0 home win over Sandwich on Monday. Photo by John DiDonna

Stellar pitching keys additional wins over Sandwich, Morris
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—If you thought the method for getting a softball season out of an early funk was going to the state of Tennessee, then you’re stealing the Lady Knights softball team’s way of doing things.

With a number of handy victories that culminated in a 6-1 trip to the Volunteer State, coupled with a slim and tense victory over the visiting Sandwich Indians on Monday afternoon and a convincing decision over invading Morris on Tuesday, the Lady Knights find themselves at 10-4 (1-0 Northern Illinois Big XII) in 2012.

The fortunate return to the win column as of late reverses a trend that saw the varsity crew on the wrong end 21 of 28 times following last season’s early 8-1 start.

In a 14-0, six-inning win on March 28 on the grounds of Macon County High School, Kaneland saw a solid pitching day from Delani Vest, Alexis Villarreal and Ellissa Eckert. Lexi Roach (three runs), Paige Kuefler (five RBI) and Allie Miller (three runs) all went 3-for-5.

In the Cookeville, Tenn. tournament, Kaneland walloped Clay County in a 16-0 shortened affair. Vest and Villarreal surrendered just two hits total, while Roach had a 2-for-3 day at the plate with three runs scored. Vest also went 2-for-3 with three runs scored to help herself at the plate.

Lewis County then got the best of the Lady Knights in a 9-4 outing, helped by five runs in the first and second innings.

In another tournament battle, Kaneland defeated Fayatte with two runs in the bottom of the fourth for a 4-3 win. Vest earned the win with seven K’s and a two-for-three day at the plate.

Next, the Lady Knights used four runs in the second and six runs in the third to propel themselves to a 12-1 win. With Vest getting the win in the circle, Kuefler helped KHS with two home runs and six driven in. Miller went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI.

The two final games on Saturday both went Kaneland’s way against Franklin County of Tenn., a 10-0 shutout and a 12-2 win over Franklin Co. of Ky. Vest, besides earning the win in both games, also went 6-for-6 at the plate, while Kuefler drove in four RBI.

In the clutch, 1-0 win over Sandwich, the hits were hard to come by for both teams, but the defense and pitching came through.

In the top of the third, Sandwich was caught between third and home and foiled by Kuefler and Allyson O’Herron on the way to the plate. Meanwhile, Villarreal had a stellar day in the pitcher’s circle, fanning 13, including the final batter on a 3-2 pitch with the go-ahead run at first in the top of the seventh.

“Once people starting getting on base, I just had to buckle down,” Villarreal said. “I hoped the defense could pick it up a little bit and I could get my strikeout.”

Roach’s groundball and throw was mishandled in the infield, allowing Kuefler to come home with the lone run from third.

Coach Brian Willis was happy with the effort in the field on a day where the hits came at a premium.

“We’re going to have days like this, where the pitching and defense needs to pick you up. Alexis pitched well, and she kept us in the game the entire time,” Willis said.

In the 5-0 handling of the Lady Redskins, Kaneland scored two in the first, two in the third and one in the fifth.

Vest allowed just three hits and fanned seven. Lanie Callaghan made her way from the injury list with a 3-for-3 day with two doubles.

Ahead for the softball squad is a matchup in DeKalb on Thursday, April 5, followed by a battle at West Aurora High School on Monday, April 9, and a trip to Sycamore to face the squad that eliminated the Knights last year from playoff competition on Tuesday, April 10.

Softball beats Oswego, not fond of BC yardwork

Photo: The Kaneland varsity girls try to figure out a plan during their 10-5 home loss against Burlington Central on March 21. Photo by Patti Wilk

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—At the very least, the Kaneland Lady Knights softball crew no longer has to worry about where its first win will come from.

Thanks to a solid performance against the visiting Oswego Lady Panthers, Kaneland picked up its first win of the season on Saturday by a final of 8-0.

It left a better taste than the 10-5 loss to the visiting Lady Rockets of Burlington Central on March 21.

Kaneland now sits at 1-3.

KHS got all the offense it needed in the first four innings against Oswego, scoring two in the first and second, one in the third and three in the bottom of the fourth.

Senior Delani Vest picked up the win in a complete-game effort, fanning six while allowing just two hits.

Shortstop Allyson O’Herron went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI, while teammate Sarah Kitz added a triple and an RBI.

The win beat the overall result of the clash with the Lady Rockets. Leads of 2-0 and 5-4 could not hold up to the four-homer barrage of BC.

Alexis Villarreal suffered the loss in relief, but KHS saw good box scores from Vest (2-for-4, triple) and catcher McKinzie Mangers (2-for-4).

Kaneland couldn’t withstand three homers from sophomore Brooke Gaylord, however.

Kaneland’s 2-0 lead was put on the board by an RBI grounder from Lexi Roach and a double by Mangers.

After BC tied the score in the top of the second, the Lady Rockets scored two more in the fourth for a 4-2 lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, three straight infield singles by Allie Miller, Vest and Roach loaded the bases, and O’Herron knocked home two with a game-tying single. Freshman Paige Kuefler’s RBI double gave Kaneland a 5-4 lead.

BC used defensive lapses from KHS and timely hitting from its own lineup to put up five runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to clinch the win.

All Kaneland coach Brian Willis wanted was for his lineup to move past the less-than-ideal ending.

“We’ve played 21 innings this year, and we’ve had one bad inning,” Willis said. “If you have that bad inning, this is what’s going to happen. (Gaylord) was in a zone today, give her credit.”

Additional softball action had KHS beating BC 5-0 behind Anissa Becker’s pitching effort.

Ahead for the Lady Knights lies a trip to the lower reaches of the state, as they take on Macon County High School on Friday, March 30, as part of their spring break excursion.

Kaneland softball looks toward captains to right ship

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.

Softball drops 2 initial contests of ‘12

KANELAND—It was unfortunate that the end result of Kaneland Lady Knights softball failed to match the ideal weather of the past week.

Despite hanging tough with both Marengo and Jacobs high schools, the Lady Knights began 2012 with two losses.

In the season opener against the host Lady Indians off of Route 20, KHS fell 5-3, despite pounding out 10 hits.

Captain Delani Vest suffered the loss in the pitcher’s circle.

Encouraging developments included varsity newcomer Paige Kuefler going 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored, while Lexi Roach went 2-for-4.

The Lady Knights took a 1-0 lead before Marengo tied it in the bottom of the second. Kaneland went up 2-1 before Marengo put up two each in the bottom of the fifth, as well as the sixth.

Against Jacobs of Algonquin, Ill., Alexis Villarreal went 6.2 innings and gave up two runs on eight hits before surrendering the differential run in the top of the seventh in a 2-1 setback.

Kuefler went 2-for-3 with a double, triple and run scored.

Softball was set to face off with visiting Burlington Central on Wednesday, and looks for a weekend win against Oswego in Maple Park on Saturday, March 24.

X-Factors

The Kane County Xplosion 14U won its second-consecutive USSSA State Tournament Championship after going 7-0 at the tournament held in Rockford, Ill. The team features Kaneland High School athletes Paige Kuefler, Ali Miller, Lauren Zick and Lexi Roach, and is coached by Mike Kuefler, Wally Spagnola, Don Miller and Keith Olinger. The team leaves this week for the USSSA World Series in Orlando, Fla. The team is currently 30-5. Courtesy Photo