Lyons Township High School senior first baseman Lilly Prendergast is grateful to the upperclassmen who eased her transition upon joining the varsity softball team as a sophomore.
Now she and senior catcher Tess Meyer are third-year varsity players trying to set the tone for a relatively young roster with eight returnees but three sophomores, two freshmen, only four seniors and new head coach Megan Pyles.
“The younger girls have a lot of eagerness and drive towards the game, which makes the team feel the same drive, too,” Prendergast said. “I know when I was a sophomore, I felt intimidated with a handful of older girls, but a couple of them took me under their wings and made the experience fun. I hope to do that and make sure they feel they can talk to me or any other older girl. It’s vital to feel a sense of trust.”
The Lions also hope to ride the wave from their best seasons in recent memory. Their 21-4 season in 2022 included sharing their first West Suburban Conference Silver title since 1990 with Downers Grove North at 10-2 and winning their first regional since 2017 before losing in the IHSA Class 4A Marist Sectional final 1-0 to Marist, which finished second in state after taking the 2021 title.
Pyles is a 2017 Evergreen Park High School graduate who starred there and played one season at Moraine Valley Community College. Cancellations have delayed the Lions’ season opener to April 3 at Sandburg.
“The majority of our starting defense is returning varsity players. Offensively, we have some hot bats and tons of speed,” Pyles said. “We have a lot of new varsity players so we want to focus on creating a culture and environment that will transfer into future seasons.”
Northern Illinois recruit Meyer returns at catcher but also will play shortstop. She was among the Lions’ big bats last season with a .387 batting average, three home runs and 21 runs batted in. Meyer shared the team lead with 31 runs scored.
Junior Peyton O’Flaherty (.329, 14 RBI, 17 runs) moves from second to third base. She has verbally committed to Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Senior catcher Makenna Kotor (.383, 26 RBIs, 15 runs), junior outfielder Kaitlyn Filkins (.355, 2 HR, 17 RBIs, 25 runs) and Prendergast (.250, 12 runs) also started and played at least 20 games.
Also seeing varsity action were junior Clare Kelliher and senior Jay Sanchez, both outfielders, and sophomore Isabella Evans (.391, 8 RBIs), who will miss this season due to injury. Evans also was 5-2 with a 3.06 earned-run average as a pitcher.
Key newcomers include juniors Arianna Amelia (catcher/second base) and Daisy Laslie, sophomores Tess Bernson (outfield) and Ellie Cook, freshmen Ava Jacklin (second base/shortstop) and Skyla Greco-Forsell and seniors Lexi Jeffrey, Lauren Schinker and Grace Sneed.
“The team has a lot of potential since we have so many young kids. Growing as a team and creating team chemistry is something that we are hopeful to create,” Prendergast said.