CRYSTAL LAKE – Marian Central junior shortstop Maggie Finnegan has had the type of season at the plate most athletes only dream about.
She had seven hits in eight at-bats during a doubleheader sweep over East Suburban Catholic Conference opponent Nazareth Academy. She was 5 for 8 with a pair of doubles and five runs scored against St. Viator. And she went 4 for 6 with four RBIs in a victory over Benet.
Through her first 20 games, Finnegan has a .575 batting average, a .584 on-base percentage, and a ridiculous 1.557 on-base plus slugging percentage. She has belted four homers, 10 doubles, and four triples to go along with 23 RBIs. All while batting primarily leadoff.
Monday against Crystal Lake South, she found herself penciled in the third spot in the order instead. It didn’t slow her down. Finnegan had the game’s only RBI on a first-inning single before the game was postponed in the bottom of the third because of lightning. It was rescheduled to be played in its entirety Thursday.
“When I was younger, there were times I would take my at-bats that didn’t end well with me out to the field the following inning, which you never want to do,” Finnegan said. “That doesn’t happen anymore. This game will pretty much chew you up and spit you out if you let it. I’ve since learned to block the negatives out better. You gain nothing from dwelling on negatives.”
That bullish mental toughness is one of many reasons Finnegan has been committed to Penn State since the summer after her freshman year.
“Her positivity in the dugout is infectious,” teammate and second baseman Megan Bokowy said. “It’s a huge aspect of what she brings to the table. Especially on a team like ours that only has one active senior in the lineup.”
Having one senior (Laura Black) hasn’t slowed the Hurricanes. They’re 12-8 overall, and 7-5 in the ESCC, which is routinely one of the top conferences in the state. First-year coach Kurt Farnam said there’s also much more to Finnegan’s game than her gaudy numbers on offense.
“That’s the crazy thing,” Farnam said. “As incredible as she’s been with the bat for us, her defense may be just as good, if not better, than her offense. Her instincts are unbelievable. Her range is off the charts. She can get to almost anything. Heck, if there’s a ball hit in the air anywhere even remotely close to her, she’s going to be nearby.”
It’s been a special season for Finnegan for another reason. Her younger sister, Molly, is a freshman first baseman for Marian Central and was batting ninth Monday. She, too, showered her older sibling with glowing praise.
“When you’re a freshman starting out with a new team, it can be intimidating,” Molly Finnegan said. “But my sister has taught me to remember to enjoy the game, and that it’s OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Even though she’s only a junior, she’s taken on a huge leadership role, and this team has responded to that in a big, big way. She’s been an enormous inspiration to me and everyone else on our team.”
The scary part is, with another full year of high school left after this season, we may not have seen Maggie Finnegan’s true ceiling yet. And with the Class 3A playoffs looming next week, when Marian opens as a No. 6 seed in the Burlington Central Regional on Monday against a St. Edward team it already walloped, 20-0, in April, the real fun begins soon.
If the Hurricanes win that game, 2017 Class 3A state champ and top seed Marengo awaits them in the next round. Maggie Finnegan’s eyes lit up when asked about that possibility.
“Marengo was who we lost to in the playoffs last season, so we would absolutely love another shot at them,” she said. “We feel like we are much more prepared this season. My goal is to win at least one regional while I’m here. Heck ... I just want to win, period.”