If the Kaskaskia College softball program continues its upward trend over the next two seasons, there’s a pretty good chance some familiar names will have a lot to do with it.
Blue Devils coach Lori Cox describes her 2008 recruiting class as a ‘great’ one. And that class just so happens to include South Central graduate Lauren Matheny and three players from a Beecher City/Cowden-Herrick team that won a program-record 20 games last season – Randi Lilly, Heather Shelton and Kayla Ohnesorge.
Cox is optimistic the foursome can help KC improve on last year’s 8-16 record and keep the Blue Devils heading in the right direction.
‘Each year, we keep getting better and more competitive in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference,’ Cox said. ‘We have a great recruiting class coming in for next year, with depth in pitching, speed and good, quality bats.’
Matheny is part of the pitching depth Cox speaks of.
The former Lady Cougars ace was an all-Midland Trail Conference first-team selection during her junior year and an all-conference honorable mention as a senior.
She received many other awards during her high school career, including team MVP, team captain and most improved.
Cox feels Matheny’s moxie in the pitcher’s circle will help her transition to the next level.
‘Lauren is a smart and aggressive player,’ Cox said. ‘I feel her ability to mix her pitches will allow her success at the college level.’
But, due to KC’s excellent depth in the pitcher’s circle, innings may be at a premium early on for Matheny.
‘I look for Lauren to see some time pitching for us next year, but she will have to work very hard – as will all the pitchers – with eight pitchers on the staff for next year,’ Cox said.
Matheny also played shortstop and centerfield during her four-year varsity career, and her versatility should serve her well at the collegiate level as well.
‘When Lauren is not pitching, she could possibly see some time on the infield as well,’ Cox said.
Lilly, Shelton and Ohnesorge were instrumental to a run of unprecedented success during their respective four-year varsity careers for Beecher City/Cowden-Herrick, with each player bringing different strengths to the table.
‘Randi brought us speed, Heather brought us power, and Kayla brought a lot of leadership and led the team defensively with her catching abilities,’ Lady Eagles coach Carolyn Wendte said.
Those respective strengths caught Cox’s eye, and the Blue Devils coach feels they will help her program as well.
Lilly earned a second-team all-Egyptian-Illini Conference selection after a senior season in which she set the tone with her speed atop BC/C-H’s order. She was also very good defensively at second base.
‘Randi has great range and she’s also very quick,’ Cox said. ‘I feel she’ll have a good shot at finding a spot in the lineup with her speed and defensive play.’
Ohnesorge was also a rock defensively behind the plate for the Lady Eagles, which, coupled with a solid senior year offensively, garnered her a first-team all-EIC nod.
‘Kayla is a very good catcher with a strong arm,’ Cox said. ‘She has the tools to become an excellent catcher. She is also a fundamentally sound hitter as well.
‘Kayla will work hard to find a spot in the lineup. I look for her to become one of our top catchers for next year and contribute greatly with her bat.’
Shelton will certainly be counted on to do the same, coming off a senior season in which she hit .492, in addition to playing excellent defense at third base.
Shelton was so important to the Lady Eagles’ success that Wendte feels the Lady Eagles would have likely brought home the program’s first regional championship if not for a torn hamstring that kept Shelton out of the final seven games of the year.
BC/C-H struggled in those final seven games, which included a loss to the host team in the championship of the Altamont Regional.
Despite the injury, Shelton was a first-team EIC selection and an NTC honorable mention.
‘Heather has a lot of potential to excel at the college level,’ Cox said. ‘She is very solid defensively and hits the ball hard.
‘I feel that Heather could become an impact player with her defense and offense leading the way. I would like to see her work her way into the middle of our batting order and become a great hitter on our team.’
Not only did the threesome lead Beecher City/Cowden-Herrick to its best-ever record (20-9), they were part of the most talented class of Wendte’s tenure.
Prior to this past season, Wendte had never had more than two players from one class earn a college scholarship – much less have three from one class sign to play at the same college.
But the class of 2008 doubled that total, as pitcher Allyson Doty also earned an athletic scholarship.