Athlete of the Week
Briana Bower, Huntley, so., P
Bower had a huge week in the circle, starting with a career-high 18 strikeouts in a 4-0 win over DeKalb at Chicago Bandits Stadium in Rosemont. She struck out the first nine batters she faced and allowed three hits and a walk. The next day, Bower threw a four-inning perfect game with 11 strikeouts in a 16-0 win against Belvidere North.
The sophomore improved to 5-2 Wednesday as the Red Raiders beat Wheaton North, 10-4. Bower allowed one earned run on five hits with a walk and 11 strikeouts in a complete game.
Northwest Herald Power Rankings
1. Huntley (7-2): The three-time defending Fox Valley Conference champions have outscored their opponents, 83-31, through nine games, losing to Lockport, 7-2, and Barrington, 10-8. With a deep lineup led by four-year varsity catcher Sofia Tenuta and Bower in the circle, the Red Raiders remain the class of the FVC until someone knocks them off.
2. Crystal Lake South (5-0): The Gators have put up 70 runs through five games, all wins, and have allowed 15. From top to bottom, South might have the most dangerous offense in the area. Christina Toniolo (committed to UIC) and Alyssa Niketopoulos have been solid in the circle.
3. Marengo (5-5): The Indians started their Kishwaukee River Conference title defense with a 12-1 victory over Johnsburg. Marengo returns a talented offense led by seniors Hannah Ritter, Lauren Aubry and Grace Houghton. The Indians are going after their sixth straight conference title.
4. Woodstock North (1-1-1): North is eyeing the KRC title this year, led by senior pitcher Ellie Thurow, last year's KRC Player of the Year. Thurow started the year with 15 strikeouts in a 5-4 win over Mundelein. She led the area last season with a 1.12 ERA and was second with 251 strikeouts.
5. Cary-Grove (3-2): The Trojans didn't lose too much from last year and return an 11-game winner in senior starting pitcher Emma Hill, who also was one of C-G's top hitters with a .371 batting average and 36 RBIs. C-G has won three straight after an 0-2 start.
Making them go: It's a rare day if Crystal Lake South second baseman Maddie Bush isn't covered in dirt after a game. South coach Scott Busam called Bush one of the most exciting players in the area.
The senior tried for a full-out diving catch on a line drive early in the Gators' 17-1 victory against Marian Central last week with the ball hitting off her glove and her landing face first in the infield. Later in the inning, she started a 4-5 double play on another hard-hit ball.
Busam calls Bush "the heartbeat of the team."
"She has no regard for her physical health," Busam said. "She will dive, slide, absolutely anything she can do. Every now and again, she does something spectacular where you're just glad you were there to see it. I just think she's a really special player, and we kind of go as she goes."
Successful trip: Marian Central isn't off to the best of starts, going 3-8 through 11 games, but the Hurricanes got valuable experience at the 70-team Southern Warrior Classic in Tennessee that second-year coach Kurt Farnam hopes will pay off down the road.
Marian was 3-6 at the tournament, facing some teams that already have played 20-plus games this season. The Hurricanes faced a Division-I pitcher in their first game. Megan Bokowy hit .480 with five doubles, and Jenna Golembiewski hit .407 with eight steals. Maggie Finnegan, a Penn State commit, smacked three homers, four doubles and a triple on the trip.
"We're never going to give up. That's how we are," Farnam said. "We got our butts kicked there, but we came back the next day and beat some very good teams. As long as we're having good at-bats, that's all I'm looking for right now."
So much offense: The entire nine-team FVC is putting up big offensive numbers with 300 runs scored in 36 games, an average of 8.3 runs a game. South has 70 runs in five games, Huntley has 83 runs in nine games, Central scored 21 runs in a win over Wauconda on Wednesday, and Prairie Ridge had 17 runs in a loss to Belvidere North in its opener.
What to Watch
Dundee-Crown at Huntley, 4:30 p.m. Monday: The Raiders start their FVC title defense next week. Huntley has gone 38-4 in conference play since 2016 and finished 15-1 last season, with its only loss to D-C.
McHenry at Hampshire, 4:30 p.m. Monday: McHenry probably underachieved in the FVC last year, finishing 4-11, but still captured its sixth Class 4A regional title in seven years. Tori Boysen (Western Illinois) and Jocelyn Currie (Loyola) are back to lead the Warriors' offense. Hampshire is looking to improve on a fourth-place finish in the FVC.