A softball coach is quite satisfied when he’s able to find one good catcher to add to his lineup. The position warrants an extremely versatile athlete who possesses all the skills needed to play anywhere on the field.
OPRF head softball coach Mel Kolbusz has four starting catchers at his disposal this season and every one of them is likely to see significant time on the field, whether behind home plate or not.
“I believe the more catchers you have on your ballclub the better,” said Kolbusz, who begins his 17th year as head coach of the Huskies, his 23rd coaching in OPRF’s softball program. “We actually had three catchers last year, so now we have four and they are all top athletes.”
Seniors Lauren Gonzalez, Mara Blesoff and Janie Brennan, as well as junior Lauren Flannery will see time behind the plate and elsewhere this season. Gonzalez batted .430 last season with 21 RBIs and three home runs. Blesoff and Brennan also hit well last season for the Huskies, who finished with an overall record of 28-9. Both players batted well above .300 and combined for 53 RBIs. Brennan, who blasted four homeruns, is likely to see time at shortstop. Flannery batted .427 on junior varsity last year.
By keeping 11 total seniors, eight of which played on varsity last season, Kolbusz has more than enough depth in this ballclub. Also returning from a team that won its third straight West Suburban (Silver) Conference championship last season are Maggie Paoli, Megan White, Asia Babbington, Elayna Sitko and K.C. Montgomery. White, a middle infielder who has played on varsity since her freshman season, also belted four homers last year. Babbington and Sitko are expected to take up outfield positions, while Montgomery moves into the experienced pitcher’s role. Last season, Montgomery was the third pitcher behind Seana Stillson and Sara Hutchinson, who have graduated. The right-hander went 3-0 with a 0.35 ERA in limited time on the mound last year.
Three seniors expected to make an impact include pitcher Rachel Gillette and outfielders Caroline Reinwald and Colleen Tobin. Gillette will share time on the mound with Montgomery and newcomer Leah Bry. Gillette and Bry, whose velocity has reached 60 mph, combined for over 20 wins last year on junior varsity. Bry recently made an oral commitment to Butler University. She pitched in three varsity games last season, striking out 14 batters in nine innings.
Kolbusz also has a bevy of top-notch juniors in Hannah Press, Marisa Belpedio, Kristen Wirtz and Micheline Figel. Press batted .369 last season, while Belpedio scattered 37 hits, 19 for extra bases.
The Huskies are likely to battle Glenbard West, Downers Grove North and Lyons Township for the top spot in the conference. Over the years, OPRF has basically dominated the position, securing 14 Silver Division titles in the last 16 years. Last season, the team rolled to a perfect 12-0 mark. The last time the Huskies lost the conference title was 2005, the year they won the state championship.
“I’ve never been one to make predictions, but this team certainly has the potential for a return trip to the state tournament,” said Kolbusz. “It’s not out of the question. These girls are good and they work hard, and there’s definitely enough talent to get us there. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
The Huskies are scheduled to open the season hosting Addison Trail on Monday, March 23 (4:30 p.m.). They’ll begin conference play at York on April 20, after traveling to area-rival Trinity on April 15.