In past seasons, Oak Park and River Forest High School softball coach Mel Kolbusz hasn't always had quite enough preseason time to cover all the bases, figuratively speaking, in terms of the Huskies' plan of attack. There's typically another game plan wrinkle or practice drill the meticulous manager might want to incorporate.
This spring, however, that certainly hasn't been the case for the game-starved Huskies who will finally kick off their season this week.
"We have had all the practice time we could possibly want," Kolbusz said. "I've been able to go over everything. We have worked on defense, double steals, bunting and hitting in the cage. We're ready to play and eager for Wednesday."
Inclement weather has been the Huskies' (and most Chicago-area prep teams') toughest opponent this spring.
The Huskies take on Wheaton Warrenville South on Wednesday (11 a.m.) in the Dome at the Ballpark in Rosemont to mark their overdue debut. The impressive indoor, multi-purpose athletic facility is 140,000 square feet with two softball diamonds including a 75-foot ceiling height.
"It's brand new and one of the best facilities I've ever seen," Kobusz said. "It's like playing outside."
On Thursday, OPRF plays host Lake Park in a doubleheader (11 a.m.).
Kolbusz, who guided the Huskies to a 19-18 record last season, likes the makeup of his team.
"We have a bunch of really nice, hard-working kids," Kolbusz said. "Our infield returns virtually intact, I like our pitching, and I can say with some confidence that I think we will be a better hitting team this year."
Factoring in the late start to the season, the Huskies are blessed to have three quality pitchers in juniors Emma Baldwin and Emily Munz, along with promising freshman Emily Richardson. Depth and versatility are always nice luxuries to have in a pitching rotation, especially with a busy, truncated schedule on the horizon.
"Emma is our No.1 pitcher," Kolbusz said about Baldwin who finished with 2.06 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 136 innings of work last season. "She's a three-year varsity player. She has all the pitches: curveball, screwball, rise, drop and change."
Offensively, senior shortstop Mariah Weinand, who had 40 hits in 121 at-bats last season for a .331 batting average, leads OPRF. Jenna Rouse (.264, 21 RBI in 2012) is another top returning hitter.
Varsity veterans Samantha Davidson, Kayla Flanagan, Dana Alcock, Caroline Kelty, Elizabeth Kiefer, Colleen McAdams also will contribute.
Along with an infusion of juniors, sophomore Taylor Arends likewise appears poised to make an impact at the varsity level this year.
"Taylor is also a very good tennis player and just a really good athlete," Kolbusz said. "She's a strong kid with a lot of ability who just needs game experience."
In addition to taking on non-conference area rivals Trinity and Fenwick, the Huskies hope to challenge Downers Grove North and Glenbard West for the West Suburban Silver Conference title. Lyons Township and York are other potential contenders.
"I like our team," Kolbusz said, "and I think we can be in the mix for conference."
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