The Lyons Township High School softball team opened the 2021 season on April 14 with a 10-3 victory over Leyden Township at Bandits’ Stadium in Rosemont. The Lions pounded out 15 hits, including three apiece for Emily Joseph and Ava Paganis and two each for Sarah Karlson, Charlotte McLaughlin and Tess Meyer.

On the mound, Lily Hanafin notched the win while splitting pitching duties with Ava Kostecki. Each struck out five Eagles’ hitters. The successful start is what LTHS coach Nicole Paluch was hoping for.

“It feels fantastic,” said Paluch, entering her fifth season as the Lions’ skipper. “We’re all itching to get back out there and can’t wait to make up for lost time.”

LTHS will count on several returning players to help improve on a 10-15 record during the 2019 season, one that saw many freshmen in the lineup. The experience gained then may be prove to be a benefit this year for the Lions.

Kostecki is a senior who is committed to play at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater next year. Hanafin, a junior, led LTHS in batting with a .393 average, while also contributing five home runs and 23 RBI in 2019. Hanafin’s classmates — Joseph, Paganis and Anna Bryant — possess the ability to play multiple positions.

Two newcomers who are looking to aid the Lions this season are Meyer and Lillian Prendergast. 

“Tess is a young but knowledgeable catcher,” Paluch said. “She’s quick behind the plate and has a great sense of the field. We’re excited to see what she does both at and behind the plate this season. Lillian’s quickness on offense and defense will prove to be crucial to the quick pace of our infielders.”

Paluch believes LTHS can surprise some teams this season, but she’s simply thankful to be playing this spring and feels her players have dealt with the uncertainty of the past year.

 “Many girls created new bonds and got to know their teammates in ways they wouldn’t have been able to on the field,” Paluch said. “We have learned that time is precious and we can’t take anything for granted. As a team, we’re very grateful to have our 2021 season.”

LTHS has four games this week, including road contests April 19 at Downers Grove South and April 21 at Glenbard West (both post-press time), then home meetings with Downers Grove North on April 23 and Willowbrook on April 24.