By Dennis Bowling
Peotone softball coach Noah Champene is hoping to vastly improve on last year’s disappointing 9-16 overall mark.
Champene has six returning players, upon which the Blue Devils should have a successful season. Leading the list are two-sport standout seniors, pitcher Josie Graffeo (6-6) and catcher Lily Ruckman. Juniors third baseman Morgan Barnoski and centerfielder Hannah Delorio, along with sophomores shortstop Sam Gwiazda and first baseman Mae Graffeo all have varsity experience. Also, look for 5-foot-8 freshman hurler Emma Herder to have a great season, too.
“We’ll be relying on Josie and Emma,” said Champene. “Josie has good control and velocity. We are expecting great things from Emma. She is promising and has several pitches. We are looking to pick up where we left off. Lily is smart and always knows what pitches to call. It is her third year on the varsity, and she knows our pitchers really well. She is a great team leader.
“Morgan is solid and reliable,” he said. “She does not make a lot of errors. She is a good solid hitter. Sam does not make an error and is our best all-around hitter. Hannah is a good defender, and she is able to read the ball off the bat. She is quick and does take smart routes to the ball.”
Champene also is looking for great things from freshman catcher Grace Vowell.
“She is just not intimidated by varsity level,” he said. “She has a very good feeling for the game and is just a very smart player.”
Josie Graffeo has just finished an outstanding varsity basketball season. She passed the prestigious 1,000-point scoring career mark and helped the Blue Devils win its second regional title in a row. She also helped Peotone capture the I-8 regular season conference title.
“Last season was a learning year for us,” she said. “I have been working hard on my pitches. I always know what my next pitch will be. Lily works so hard and is our wall behind the plate. She is a good hitter. Emma is a good pitcher. We work hard together. She is very determined.
“Sam is a great player,” she said. “We’ll need her great defense. She has an outstanding glove. Morgan is a great third baseman and bunter. Hannah will get to a lot of balls. Mae is working her way back and will be a real asset to our team.”
Late last season, Gwiazda injured her left wrist. Last winter, she did very well with the Blue Devils basketball team. Now, she is ready to assume a very important role with the Peotone varsity softball team.
“This year, I just want to be more of a leader,” she said. “I want to be more vocal, too, and I hope to be able to steal more bases. We do have better team work. We’re all on the same page.
“Josie just has a lot of drive. She is our leader and is a pretty good pitcher, who is super-fast. Lily is an amazing catcher. Her throws are always pinpoint. Hannah is one of the best outfielders I have seen. She always steps up and gets her hits. Emma plays the game with a lot of heart.”
Peotone will host Morris on March 21 at 4:30 p.m. The Blue Devils will journey to Bradley for a 4:30 p.m. contest the next afternoon.