It wasn’t long ago that the Trinity High School softball program was among the Chicago area’s best. Under the guidance of Bob Osborne, the Blazers won several regional and sectional titles and even went Downstate.
In recent years, Trinity has been on a bit of a downturn. But the Blazers are looking to turn around their softball fortunes. First-year head coach Bryan Hoffman brings years of experience coaching youth softball. He seeks to improve on last year’s 15-17-1 record (4-11-1 in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference).
“We are excited about this team,” Hoffman said. “We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re simply fine-tuning an already-great program that coach Osborne built. Our goal is to restore Trinity softball to the high standards set by Oz many years ago.”
Despite a sub-.500 season in 2017, the Blazers like their chances for a good season due to their talent.
Senior captains Gabrielle Buikema, Ileana Fierro and Juliana Morini will play college softball next season. Buikema, a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh signee, is a top outfielder in the Chicago area. While Morini is committed to play at Wisconsin Lutheran next season, Fierro is still undecided but will choose soon according to Hoffman.
“Gabby (Buikema) is our starting center fielder,” Hoffman said. “She hit .635 last year as a junior and brings a lot to the team. She’s a great leader who’s extremely enthusiastic. She comes to practices and games excited.
“Ileana switches off between first base and pitcher. She’s got a number of good pitches and was our number one starter in the rotation last year. Juliana is the ultimate utility player. She’s our starting third baseman, but she can play any position on the field. She can pitch, she can catch, and she’ll play wherever we ask her to in order to help the team. She’s a great kid.
Junior shortstop Emely Martinez will bat leadoff for the Blazers. She missed last season due to injury. Hoffman hopes Martinez, currently in concussion protocol, will be a catalyst for the entire lineup.
“Having Emely at shortstop strengthens our defense,” Hoffman said.
A promising newcomer is sophomore Sammy Nelson, who will compete with Fierro for the No. 1 starter job in the circle.
“Sammy got a significant amount of playing time on the varsity last year,” said Hoffman. “She pitched and also played some first base and right field. She struggled a bit as a freshman, but has really come out strong this year not just at the plate but in the pitching circle. She got a big win for us against Lane Tech.”
Between games in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference and nonconference matchups, Trinity will be tested regularly.
“Every game on our schedule is a key game and we plan to treat each of them as such,” Hoffman said. “Our goal for the season is to play the best competition around. We want to prepare our softballers for the postseason.”