Emily Mahoney spent the fall semester as a student teacher at Johnsburg High School.
When the Dominican University senior softball player returned to campus in River Forest this spring, she noticed a similar age discrepancy to her high school students.
As one of only four seniors on the NCAA Division III softball team, Mahoney is part of a roster with no juniors, six sophomores and 10 freshmen.
“I feel like a grandma when I tell them I’m going to be 23 at the end of the year and they just turned 18,” Mahoney said.
Despite an abundance of youth, the Stars and Mahoney are enjoying an impressive season.
Thanks to Mahoney earning Northern Athletics Conference Pitcher of the Week the past two weeks, Dominican (16-6) has started its conference season with an 8-0 record.
Last weekend, Mahoney pitched four complete-game shutouts and piled up 28 consecutive scoreless innings as Dominican swept doubleheaders from Marian and Edgewood. She struck out a season-high 16 in a 1-0 win against Marian. In the four games, she struck out 48 batters.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” said Mahoney, a Crystal Lake South grad. “I didn’t expect things to go this well. I’m glad that I’ve been able to help the team.”
For the season, Mahoney (11-2) has a 1.98 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 952/3 innings. Last weekend, she zoomed past Dominican’s single-season strikeout record of 124.
“The way I pitch has changed a lot,” Mahoney said. “I’ve gone from throwing drop balls and drop curves to throwing rise balls and rise curves.”
Mahoney’s contributions go beyond pitching, though. She is also one of the team’s top hitters with a .387 batting average with 13 RBIs.
“I’ve always loved hitting,” she said. “I came here as a position player. I really appreciate the opportunity to hit, and I don’t take it for granted.”
Judson milestone: Jacobs grad Johnny Amann hit a two-run homer Monday for NAIA Judson University’s baseball team to help head coach Rich Benjamin reach his 200th career victory in a doubleheader sweep of Calumet College of St. Joseph.
Judson (25-14) leads the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s North Division with a 10-3 record.
Amann, a senior infielder, is batting .248 with seven doubles, three homers and 18 RBIs.
Among the team’s top hitters is freshman outfielder Luke Wians of Hampshire. Wians has a .364 batting average. While starting 15 games, he has produced 14 RBIs.
Seniors T.J. Swank (Prairie Ridge) and Craig Lipp (Huntley) are two of the team’s top starting pitchers.
Swank is 5-1 with a 3.43 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 42 innings. Lipp has a 4-2 record and a 2.68 ERA. Freshman Luke Keller (Prairie Ridge) is 2-0 out of the Eagles’ bullpen with two saves and a 2.81 ERA.
Auburn achiever: Huntley grad Marcus Popenfoose placed second in the discus and third in the shot put last weekend for D-I Auburn at the team’s Tiger Track Classic.
Popenfoose threw the discus 173 feet, 3 inches to finish as the event’s runner-up. The junior had a shot put throw of 59 feet, 7 ¾ inches, which was only one inch behind event champion Coy Blair of Purdue. Popenfoose’s shot put effort ranks sixth in the Southeastern Conference this season. His best discus throw of 173-4 earlier this season ranks ninth in the SEC.
Pyan power: D-III Carthage College softball player Vicki Pyan is batting .411 with a team-best nine doubles and 18 runs scored this season.
Pyan, a Crystal Lake South grad, has a .750 slugging percentage and has helped Carthage to a 15-5 record to start the season.
The junior, who plays third base, also leads the team with two triples and two home runs while collecting 14 RBIs this season.
Pyan drove in three runs April 6 in a doubleheader sweep of North Park as Carthage opened the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin schedule with a 2-0 record.
Sopena sidelined: Huntley grad Nathan Sopena has been sidelined by a wrist injury for D-I Eastern Illinois’ baseball team.
The Panthers’ starting senior second baseman had surgery last week on his left wrist after breaking a bone March 19 against Southern Illinois, according to the Daily Eastern News, and will miss four-to-six weeks.
Sopena, who was EIU’s leadoff hitter, was leading the Panthers with a .311 batting average before the injury. Sopena also produced a .394 on-base percentage and a team-leading five stolen bases this season.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him@BarryOnCampus on Twitter.