Over the last two seasons, the La Salle-Peru softball team went 57-13, won two regional championships, claimed a Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division title and finished second in the state in Class 3A.
But gone are five starters from those two teams, including ace pitcher and two-time NewsTribune Softball Player of the Year Ally Smith.
Still, the 2013 Lady Cavaliers hope to continue the winning tradition.
“I think the past couple years, L-P softball has gained a really good reputation, and I think that in order to keep our name up, we have to keep our game up,” L-P senior Brittany Zawacki said.
In their attempt to live up to their reputation, the Lady Cavs do have four players back with significant experience — Zawacki, classmates Carly Spelich and Haley Wren and junior Abby Turczyn — but must fill spots with seniors taking more prominent roles and juniors moving up to the varsity.
“Coming off a very successful season last year, I think we have the ability to be a good team if we all come together,” L-P coach Mike Schmdit said. “We have two new classes melding together that really haven’t played much together. We’re still learning how to work together. We’re really working on multiple positions right now because we do have quite a few holes to fill.
“I think we have the ability to be a good team, and if we keep working hard, we should achieve that.”
Whether L-P achieves the success or not will be determined largely on its pitching.
Despite losing Smith, who went 18-3 with a 1.31 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per seven innings last year, the Lady Cavs feel pitching is a strength with Zawacki and fellow senior Brianna Zeman.
Last season, Zawacki went 8-2 with a 2.03, while Zeman was 6-1 with a 2.54 ERA.
The pair will throw to Spelich, who moves behind the plate from center field.
“Brittany and I, we’ve been pitching with Carly our whole lives, so that’s going to be an advantage. We’ll be really familiar with our catcher,” Zeman said. “It’s nice to have a couple pitchers because a break is really good. Sometimes you need that if you’re struggling.”
Spelich isn’t the only player switching positions as Turczyn slides from second base to shortstop. Wren will stay at third base.
After that, there’s a lot of uncertainty.
Callie Schmidt, who is coming off a torn ACL in volleyball, will play first base.
Zawacki and Maci Sarver will see time at second base, while Tory Wyzgowski and Kelsey DeGrush also will play in the infield. Sam George, who has a disc injury in her back, will play in the infield when she’s able to return.
Katy Gealow will play in the outfield. Others who will see time out there are Zeman, Sarver, Haley Duncan, Marisa Fraga, Kasey Terselic and Alizabeth Zulkowsky.
“We have a lot of areas that are really still quite open,” Mike Schmidt said. “Unfortunately, without being bale to get outside, it makes it even more difficult. We really don’t have a set lineup by any means yet.”
That goes for the batting lineup as well.
Turczyn hit leadoff last season, but Schmidt’s not sure if he’ll use her there or as a middle-of-the-order hitter. Wren is expected to provide some pop, and Schmidt expects Spelich, Zawacki, Zeman and Gealow to be productive hitters as well.
“Last year we had a lot of good hitters (who we lost), so this year I don’t really know the lineup very well,” Spelich said. “But we have a couple very strong hitters I know we can count on.”
Despite the uncertainties, the Lady Cavs hope to contend for the NIB 12 West title and another regional championship.
“We all want to be just as successful as the past two years because we know how much fun it was and what a great experience it was,” Zawacki said. “It would be awesome if we could do it all over again.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.