Clifford back in starring role for Neuqua Valley

 
By Stan Goff
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 4/13/2022 1:47 PM

Reigning DuPage Valley Conference Player of the Year Mia Clifford has picked up right where she left off last season, and she's a big reason Neuqua Valley is off to a 5-1 record and looking well prepared for Thursday's league showdown with Naperville North.

The senior slugger has a pair of home runs already and has sparkled on defense at shortstop. Clifford, fellow senior Hannah Meeks, and junior Izzy Ernest all have started 2022 strong and have helped offset a couple of injuries on the squad. Meeks (2-0) has 20 strikeouts and has allowed just one earned run in three games and also has belted three of the team's seven home runs this spring.

 

"Hannah has been great and Izzy was our most consistent hitter last year and she's doing the same this year," said Neuqua Valley coach Dani Asquini, whose team went 26-4 last year while winning the conference crown.

First baseman Kaitlyn Wagner hopes to return from a hand injury in the next week or so, but the team's depth, which includes senior all-DVC returners Stephanie Hause and Kayla Shymkewich, has kept the Wildcats on track. After opening conference play against the 6-0 Huskies this week, the team will have three conference games next week.

Naperville North

The Huskies are so loaded this spring that some bad luck with injuries might be the only thing that would prevent them from continuing to pile up the wins.

Junior catcher Laurel Anstine leads the team in hitting and RBI and has a knack for coming up with game-winning hits. Cleanup hitter Kendall Kedziora is also hitting above .500 and leads the team in runs scored. Rhyan Hampton, the Huskies' No. 5 hitter, also has hit around the .500 mark so far.

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"We have seven hitters who are hitting pretty well right now, but the big story is our pitching right now," coach Jerry Kedziora said. "If the girls stay healthy we're shaping up for one of our better seasons."

Charlotte Chelich and Shayna Woolwine, both juniors, have been sharp in the circle so far. Chelich is 3-0 with three complete games and double-digit strikeouts in each one, including 20 in Saturday's win over Plainfield South.

Lake Park

The Lancers are off to a somewhat deceiving 2-4 start this year. They've played a tough schedule and are without Lexi Szostak, who tore her ACL during the basketball season.

The Valparaiso commit batted .340 with 10 home runs last year and was slated to be the team's top pitcher in 2022. In Szostak's absence, senior Donna D'Addabbo has stepped up with a 1.20 ERA in 12 innings so far.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

All-stater Michela Barbanente is hitting .364 with 2 homers, 1 triple and 4 stolen bases through six games, while Lake Park newcomers Ari O'Connell (.417) and Kylie Pytlak (.385, 1 HR, 6 RBI) have started strong.

Naperville Central

Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum has coached for almost four decades and won more than 700 games, but he can't recall a team that rallied from 10-run deficits twice in the same season. But Naperville Central has done just that.

Down 10-0 at Oswego on Monday, Naperville Central (3-1) rallied for a 13-11 win at Oswego. Earlier this spring the team turned a 12-2 deficit into a win.

"I'm just very impressed, but I'm a little stunned," Nussbaum said after Monday's wild win. "So far it's been a lot of fun. Our kids just don't quit."

Junior Luca Seeling is 3-0 in the circle and also drove in the winning run against Oswego. Jamie Saran had the biggest blow, a grand slam that helped spark the comeback. The Redhawks have scored 44 runs in four games.

Waubonsie Valley

Coach Val Wood's 2-5 squad has been "very up and down" so far, with the Warriors' pitching, hitting and defense all showing up well at times, but all too often not at the same time.

In a loss to Oswego on Saturday, Waubonsie scored 10 runs, but allowed 21. Sophomore pitcher Hannah Laub leads the team in pretty much every category and already has smacked 4 home runs while batting .500. Outfielders Julia Kahl and Megan Kennedy have also been hot at the plate this spring.

Fenton

The young Bison are 3-2 with the losses coming to strong Taft and Elk Grove teams so the program that won a 2019 Upstate Eight Conference championship is growing up quickly despite a hard hit from graduation last year.

"It's a very fun group to coach and work with," said Bison coach Dave Mello, whose team had all five of its spring break games canceled by weather.

Pitcher Dani Trentadue has been sharp so far including a 3-0, one-hitter with 18 strikeouts in a win over Timothy Christian, while freshman center fielder Izzy DelGrado has provided superb glovework in the outfield.

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