A pair of talented sisters in the pitcher's circle coupled with plenty of talent throughout the lineup has Lyons Township softball coach Dawn Schabacker optimistic about the Lions' chances this spring.
Last year, LT finished with a 17-17 overall record and a 5-7 mark in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference. Naperville Central ended the Lions' season via a 3-1 loss in a Class 4A regional championship game.
Fortunately for LT, any lumps taken last spring can be chalked up to valuable varsity experience gained for this year. Senior pitcher/first baseman Alyssa Koziol returns to anchor the LT lineup. The St. Ambrose University-bound Koziol served as the Lions' No. 1 pitcher and racked up 83 strikeouts while also hitting .283 with two home runs, 14 RBIs, 25 runs and eight doubles last season. Her younger sister, Ashley, is a promising sophomore who pitched as a freshman while also hitting .336 with 37 hits, 16 RBIs and 18 runs scored.
The Lions' top tandem threw for different club teams last summer, Alyssa with the Glen Ellyn Phillies and Ashley with the Homer Hawks for a third straight season. Ashley's dad, Steven, coached the Hawks.
The other end of the LT battery is well covered with the return of senior catcher Skye Riddle, who hit .304 with a pair of homers, eight doubles and drove in 15 runs in 2011. Riddle is also a team leader and excellent defensively behind the plate.
Schabacker cites shortstop Lauren Huebner (.312, 10 RBIs, 12 runs), outfielder Lela Aiyash (.912 fielding average) and Chelsey Grady (.333. 2 HRs, 5 doubles) as other key returners. Huebner will attend Aurora University to play softball next season.
"We hope to play aggressive defense to keep people off the bases," Schabacker said. "Offensively, we want to use our speed on the bases and yet still be a smart team."
The goals for LT this spring are many including a top two finish in conference and winning the St. Charles Tournament for a third-straight season. Downers Grove North, Glenbard West, Oak Park, York and LT all could contend for the league championship. Ultimately, the Lions hope for a deep postseason run starting with a regional championship.
"The keys for us is staying healthy and maintaining intensity throughout the season," Schabacker said. "We have to compete in every game in order to give ourselves a chance to win every game."
LT opens the season at home against Riverside-Brookfield in a doubleheader on Saturday, March 31 (11 a.m.). In addition to their always challenging league schedule, the Lions take on Richards, Stagg, Hinsdale South, Wheaton-Warrenville South, Wheaton North, Nazareth and Trinity in nonconference action.