Although the Fenwick High School softball team finished 17 games under .500 last year, the Friars have cause for optimism this season.

In 2015, Fenwick recovered from a 1-12 start to go 9-15 in the second half of the season and advance to a regional final. More importantly, the young Friars showed marked improvement and return essentially the bulk of their roster this spring.

Although the Friars lost top pitcher Valerie Perrelli (now playing softball at Elmhurst College), plenty of depth remains in the rotation. Junior Grace Tucek, senior Brianna McCormick and freshmen Rachel Martinez and Alyssa Stramaglia could all see playing time in the pitcher’s circle.

“Grace is a power pitcher with great control,” Marrese said. “Brianna will be another effective pitcher for us. The two freshmen have great control of all their pitches. We have tremendous pitching depth.|”

Fenwick also has depth in the outfield with Amanda Lopez, Brianna Keys, Nisi Diaz, McCormick and Tucek.

Juniors Natalie Cairo and Giselle Diaz anchor the infield at second base and shortstop, respectively. Both are third-year varsity players who hit for average, have speed and play great defense. Sophomore first baseman Margaret Planek provides left-handed power in the lineup.

Fresh of a solid freshman campaign, Kayley Sherwood returns behind the plate.

“Kayley is outstanding defensively and has a tremendous arm,” Marrese said. “She can hit for power, too.”

Speedy junior Nasama Winters, who has been working on her short game, could also contribute this spring.

“Our lineup will generate more run per game compared to last year,” Marrese said. “We will hit for more power and be more aggressive on the bases.”

Fenwick will compete in the GCAC (Girls Catholic Athletic Conference), which is one of the best conferences in the state. Providence, Bishop McNamara, Mother McAuley and Trinity are top contenders.

The Friars will also face area rivals Oak Park and River Forest and Riverside-Brookfield plus tough nonconference opponents like Benet and Carmel.

“We always play a tough schedule, but my goal every year is to win conference,” Marrese said. “If we play solid defense to complement our solid pitching staff, we will contend.”

While last season was difficult, Marrese has made a positive impact on the program since taking over the head coaching position in 2013. In his first season coaching the team, Marrese guided the Friars to regional and sectional championship. The following year, Fenwick won a regional title under Marrese in 2014.

Fenwick hosts Riverside-Brookfield Wednesday, March 16 (4:30 p.m.) at the Priory in River Forest.

Fenwick softball scouting report

Head coach: Mike Marrese

Team record last season: 10-27, 5-15 (8th place) lost to Niles West 3-2 in the Niles North Regional final

Key returners: Amanda Lopez, senior, outfielder; Brianna Keys, senior, outfielder/catcher; Brianna McCormick, senior, pitcher/outfielder; Giselle Diaz, junior, shortstop; Natalie Cairo, junior, second baseman

Newcomers to watch: Rachel Martinez, freshman, pitcher/
infielder; Alyssa Stramaglia, freshman, pitcher/infielder

Quote: "We need to improve on our short game and play better defensively, but I feel really good about our team."-Head coach Mike Marrese