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Three softball signings at KHS

in Community Sports/Kaneland/Softball by
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.

Lightning quick

in Community Sports/Girls Track/Kaneland/Softball by

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 recognized as one of Illinois’ elite

in Softball by

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

2013 Spring Athletic Banquet Awards

in Baseball/Boys Track/Girls Soccer/Girls Track/Softball/Spring Sports by

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
Hayley Contorno, Allyson O’Herron, Lanie Callaghan, Lexi Roach, Paige Kuefler
Matt Limbrunner, Dan Miller, Tyler Carlson

2013 Boys
Track and Field Awards

MVP—Track: Dylan Nauert
MVP—Field: Tanner Andrews
Drendel Award: Jay Markuson
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
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

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

Valiant comeback falls short

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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

in Softball by

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

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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.

Protecting the lead

in Softball by
#18 homerun

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

in Softball by

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

in Softball by

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

in Featured/Softball by

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

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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

in Softball by

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

in Baseball/Boys Track/Girls Soccer/Girls Track/Softball/Sports by

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

in Baseball/Kaneland/Softball by

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.

Spring journey | 2013 Spring Sports Preview

in Featured/Softball by

Photo: Kaneland’s Allyson O’Herron slides safely into third during the regional championship game last year.
File Photo

Softball squad eyes extending goal beyond regional title
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—With two-thirds of its Regional Championship lineup returning, the KHS softball team is preparing to show what it can do when Opening Day 2013 arrives.

That core of the team knows what it’s like to come back when the chips are down, like in last year’s Regional Championship win over Yorkville. Yet, they’ll have to do it without some of last year’s key players.

Gone are the likes Northern Illinois Big XII MVP and current Northern Illinois Huskie Delani Vest and reliable backstop McKinzie Mangers, but fellow all-NIB12 members Paige Kuefler, Hayley Contorno, Aly O’Herron and Lexi Roach solidify this year’s lineup.

In fact, most of the lineup from last year’s 31-7 team will return, and they will apply the experience gained from advancing all the way to the Belvidere North Sectional semifinal last May.

Fourth-year coach Brian Willis was at the helm for the first regional title win for the school in seven years.

“There’s no question that team was special last year, and they accomplished a lot of things,” Willis said. “They won 31 games and a regional, but they (the 2013 team) still have goals they want to achieve. We did lose some key players, and every school goes through that, but we have several girls coming back that are anxious to get back out on the field.”

The lineup looks to combine success and hunger.

“We have girls that will use last year as a motivating factor for this year,” Willis said.

Returning captain O’Herron patrols shortstop.

“I’m biased, but I think she’s one of the best shortstops in the entire area,” Willis said.

Junior Hayley Contorno returns at first with Rosary’s loss continuing to be a KHS gain on defense. Sophomore Kuefler moves from third to her natural position of catcher, and will try to duplicate her middle-of-the-order success at the plate. All-conference junior Roach and junior Callaghan patrol the outfield and help with the bats, with senior Sarah Grams back for an outfield job, as well. Callaghan looks for a full-strength year after missing half of 2012 with injuries, yet she still hit over .500.

Second-base will be a platoon, and freshman Meg Cohrs will start at third.

Senior Ellissa Eckert, junior Allie Miller and sophomore Anissa Becker shore up the pitcher’s circle, with Eckert having the more sizable throwing experience.

“Replacing somebody like Delani will be very difficult, but you could have someone step up and be a surprise this year; that’s sports,” Willis said.”This is their opportunity to shine.”

Fellow members of the Lady Knight roster include outfielders junior Caroline Heimerdinger, senior Morgan Newhouse, junior Megan Frascona, senior Taylor Krawczyk and junior Kaley Martens.

Infielders include junior Maddy Hester and senior Kristin Gabrielson.

The Lady Knights begin 2013 on Friday, March 15, at Jacobs High School in Algonquin, Ill. A spring break softball trip takes the team to Louisville, Ky.

KHS Softball Roster

1 Caroline Heimerdinger OF Jr
2 Sarah Grams OF Sr
3 Maddy Hester IF Jr
4 Allyson O’Herron IF Sr
6 Lanie Callaghan OF Jr
8 Allie Miller IF/P Jr
14 Haley Contorno IF Jr
16 Meg Cohrs IF Fr
18 Paige Kuefler IF/C So
21 Morgan Newhouse OF Sr
24/44 Anissa Becker P/IF So
26 Megan Frascona OF/P Jr
27 Taylor Krawczyk OF Sr
31 Kristin Gabrielson IF Sr
37 Kaley Martens OF Jr
50 Ellissa Eckert IF/P Sr
70 Lexi Roach OF Jr

Softball star Vest not done yet

in Featured/Softball by

Elite pitcher earns partial scholarship to Northern Illinois
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Delani Vest is not quite done impressing on the softball diamond.

After originally planing to join the softball outfit at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove for the upcoming 2012-13 school year, Vest took a partial scholarship offer to play Huskie softball at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

Vest, who was an important cog in the Lady Knight softball machine the past four years, as well as the Northern Illinois Big XII Most Valuable Player in 2012, said it came about quite suddenly.

“I was planning to commute to Waubonsee, but my travel team is well-known (the Wasco Diamonds), and Christina Sutcliffe, the new (NIU) coach, had seen some local teams and offered me a scholarship,” Vest said.

Rather than mow down opposing batters in a Huskie uniform, Vest looks to break batters’ spirit by nabbing ground balls as an infielder.

“I’m used to playing in the infield, and have played it for my travel team for the last three years,” Vest said.

Wasco Diamonds 18U coach Steve Cihlar is familiar with what Vest brings.

“She’s been entrenched there for three years for our 18U team and will go to college having played well over 250 games there against top competition. NIU is getting a player that has major college talent,” Cihlar said.

Vest joins an NIU team that finished 19-34 and 7-15 in Mid-American Conference play a year ago. Sutcliffe joined the team in June after seven years as an assistant coach for Miami University of Ohio.

Vest, a 2012 Kaneland graduate, won 20 games for the Lady Knights squad and made things happen in the lineup itself as a leadoff hitter in a year that saw the KHS group reach the Belvidere North Sectional.

As a college student, future Division I athlete, and mother to her son, Braden, born during the 2010-2011 softball season, Vest was relieved, excited and thankful for continued support.

“I think it was a little bit of everything. It’s going to be a little easier as a commuter for the first season. It was a Division I scholarship, and the travel is obviously more, but it was such a great opportunity. I want it so bad. I have my family, and Braden, and everyone has been so supportive,” Vest said.

Vest knows the prestige that comes to the Kaneland program as someone who makes it to the next level.

“Everyone on the softball team could have gone to play somewhere in college, and there were a lot of teammates like my sister (Rilee, at Cornell College), and players going back before me,” Vest said.

With an opportunity on the horizon, Vest has her goal and an opportunity right in front of her, and will see what she has in this intial year of college softball.

“Right now in this first year, I’ll commute from home. We’ll see how I do and see about coming to DeKalb the next year. But, we’ll take it as it comes,” Vest said.

High school softball changes hit-by-pitch rule

in Softball by

Indianapolis—Batters in high school softball no longer will have to make an attempt to avoid being hit by a pitch in order to be awarded first base.

This revision to Rule 8-1-2 was one of four rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Softball Rules Committee at its summer meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

A batter will be awarded first base if “a pitched ball is entirely within the batter’s box and it strikes the batter or her clothing. No attempt to avoid being hit by the pitch is required; however, the batter may not obviously try to get hit by the pitch.”

Theresia Wynns, NFHS director of sports and officials education and staff liaison for softball, said this rules change clears up the gray area of whether the batter made an attempt to get out of the way of the pitch.

“Since a batter is penalized for prohibiting a pitch from entering the strike zone, the committee thought there should be a penalty when the pitcher hits a batter when the pitch is completely inside the batter’s box,” Wynns said.

In Rule 6-1, the committee approved the following exceptions to the penalty for an illegal pitch:
1) If the batter reaches first base safely and each other runner advances at least one base, the illegal pitch is nullified. All action stands and the illegal pitch is canceled.
2) If the batter does not reach first base safely or if any base runner fails to advance at least one base, the coach of the team at bat shall have the option of the result of the play or the penalty of the illegal pitch.
3) If the batter is hit by an illegal pitch out of the strike zone, the batter is awarded first base and each base runner is awarded one base.
4) If ball four is an illegal pitch, the batter is awarded first base and each base runner is awarded one base.

A change was approved by the Softball Rules Committee regarding the color of gloves/mitts. As a follow-up to the change last year that required the color of all softballs to be optic yellow, the committee revised language in Rule 1-4-1 to state that gloves/mitts must not be entirely optic yellow or have that color of marking on the inside or outside of gloves/mitts that would give the appearance of the ball.

The final rules change was Rule 3-6-10, which will allow stopwatches to be used in the coach’s box.

A complete listing of all rules changes approved by the committee is available on the NFHS Web site at www.nfhs.org. Click on “Athletics & Fine Arts Activities” on the home page, and select “Softball.”

Fast-pitch softball is the fourth-most popular sport for girls at the high school level, according to the 2011-12 NFHS Athletics Participation Survey, with 373,535 participants nationwide. The sport ranks fourth in school sponsorship with 15,338 schools sponsoring the sport.

Spring kind to Kaneland athletics in awards season

in Baseball/Boys Track/Girls Soccer/Girls Track/Softball by

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

in Featured/Softball by

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.

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