42 | April 12, 2018 | The New Lenox PATriot New Lenox newlenoxpatriot.com Athlete of the Week 10 Questions with Abby Baez Abby Baez is a senior at Lincoln-Way West and the starting catcher on the softball team. So are you related to Javier Báez? Sometimes I say he’s my cousin. Then people say, “oh, really?” And then I admit, “no, he’s not.” I wish. But I don’t really watch baseball. When I do I root for both Chicago teams. The team didn’t even get to play last week [ending on April 7] because of the rainy, cold weather. How frustrating has that been? It’s frustrating. It’s really hard to get space inside for practice, too, so we’ve had to practice in the morning. We’ve had practice at 5:30 a.m., which is OK with me since I’m a morning person. When you’ve been able to play, the team is 2-3 on the season. So how do you think that has gone? We’ve got some younger players, so we’re trying to work with everyone. We’re trying to work evenly as a team. How long have you played softball? I first started playing when I was 6 or 7. I played tee ball, then rec ball and then travel ball when I was 10. I first played travel with the New Lenox Lightning, then the Beverly Bandits, and now I play for the Louisville Sluggers out of Kentucky. That makes for a lot of travel. My parents, Chuck and Nell Baez, also supported me playing, and I have to credit my hitting instructor, Tony Hull. So were you on the 16U Beverly Bandits team that won the PGF 16U Premier National Championship? Yes. I was the starting catcher (going 2-for-3 with 2 RBI in the 10-1 win in the final game). The team was coached by Eddy Ketelhut, who is now an assistant softball coach at Auburn University. We had to fight back through the losers bracket and win 10 games in a row. Not many teams end their season with a win. It was a crazy, wonderful day with a good group of girls. What is it about softball that makes it the sport for you? I like to be in control of most things in my life. I feel like I’m in control as a catcher. Being behind the plate, I feel like I’m in control of the whole field. I like to be the leader and be vocal out there. It’s exciting to be in the situation. When I was in junior high [at Manhattan Jr. High], I was a middle hitter in volleyball. But I never played that in high school. What team do you look forward to playing the 22nd century media file photo most this season? I came from Lincoln-Way Central, so I always look forward to playing them [the two teams are scheduled to play this Friday, April 13 at 4:30 at West]. I was a varsity starter there as a freshman in the outfield and as a sophomore as a catcher. Then the boundaries changed and I went to West. So the game always has a lot of intensity. What have you learned from West softball coach Heather Novak? She likes to follow the rules and always has us doing a lot of community service. We recently went to a senior home and did a lot of things with them. Softball wise, she’s taught us a lot about hitting. Are you going to play softball in college? Yes I am. I signed to play with Purdue - Fort Wayne. When I was with the Bandits, my sophomore year, I took a visit there. I fell in love with them. I verbally committed right then and there, and that’s been it. What’s the best thing about being an athlete at Lincoln-Way West? The best thing is being able to work with the team. I’ve made so many new friends and the coaching staff is great. Interview By Freelance Reporter Randy Whalen. Looking to have a garage sale this year? Call the classified department or fax in your form below! • Goes in all 7 Southwest newspapers • 4 lines of information (28 characters per line) $42.00 Single Family Payment Method ̌ Check enclosed ̌ Money Order ̌ Credit Card Please cut this form out and mail or fax it back to us at: 22 nd Century Media 11516 W. 183 rd St Suite #3 Unit SW Orland Park, IL 60467 $44.00 Multi Family Ad Copy Here (print) Name Address City/State/Zip Phone Credit Card Orders Only Card # Signature Phn: 708.326.9170 • Fax: 708.326.9179 www.22ndcenturymedia.com • Additional lines only a $1.95 • Borders only an additional $1.00 • FREE GARAGE SALE KIT $47.00 Subdivision Circle One $52.00 Estate Sale Exp.
newlenoxpatriot.com Sports the New Lenox Patriot | April 12, 2018 | 43 Randy From Page 45 the following March. Even though the boys basketball team lost the championship game, the fact that the Warriors got there was one of the best stories I’ve followed. It should give hope to how a program can turnaround. From 0-31 in its first season and a total record of 14-104 in its first four seasons to a state title appearance in its seventh season. The highlight of that season was defeating Morgan Park 68-60 locally in the Joliet Central Supersectional. The Warriors weren’t supposed to be within 20 points, let alone win that game. From the schools inception the baseball, softball and girls basketball teams have always been top-notch programs. I’m fortunate to deal with so many excellent coaches and administrators in my job. Two of the best are at West with Athletic Director Ted Robbins and Principal Monica Schmitt. With their leadership the wait shouldn’t be too long before a team tile comes to the West side of New Lenox. In my time as a local sports reporter I’ve encountered many, many good coaches. But perhaps the one I was most happy for when he won a state title was Dick Mandella. I first met coach Mandella when he was a fiery boys basketball coach in the mid 80’s at Providence. He later moved to the softball coach there and turned that program around. In 2001 he took a job as softball coach at the oneand-only Lincoln-Way which became Lincoln-Way Central when East opened in the fall of 2001. His teams from 2001-07 won at least 26 games each season and went a total of 201-40. But the Knights never won a sectional, so they and coach Mandella were labeled as “couldn’t win the big one.” But everything that went wrong in the postseason those previous seasons went right in a glorious run in 2008. I got to cover the Knights last five games that spring as it all came together and they found ways to win. From the home run hitting of right fielder Courtney Dunker in the sectional semifinal game. From center fielder Desi DeMarco hitting a late home run in the sectional final and throwing out a New Trier runner at home in extra innings in a scoreless state semifinal game. Shortstop Cassie Redman overcoming an earlier error and making a pair of good plays in the bottom of the seventh as the Knights overcame a bases loaded, no out situation to keep the supersectional game scoreless. Rachel Larson then lambasted a 2-run home run the next inning as Central defeated Moline 2-0 to advance to state. The clutch pitching of Jackie Dugan was prevalent throughout the postseason, including a pair of shutouts and a final fantastic performance in a 4-1 win over Barrington in the first ever Class 4A state title game. It was my first state title coverage for 22nd Century Media and still is one of my favorite memories. That was the only team title for Central in the past decade. The badminton team placed second in 2008 and 2009, the girls water polo team came close with a runner-up state finish in 2013, and the Coley O’Connell-coached boys bowling team just placed third this season. I always enjoy going to the original Lincoln- Way high school and with many of its sports programs on the rise in the past couple of years, another state title should certainly happen soon. When I think Lincoln-Way East, I think athletic excellence. In the decade I’ve been working for 22nd Century Media, the Griffins have won 10 state titles in five different sports and have nine runnerup state finishes. I was on hand for only two of titles, but that’s two is more than a lot of other schools have ever won. The Griffins no longer compete in boys gymnastics, but from 2005-12 they were among the best in the state with a pair of first place finishes and five seconds. I was there when Ajani Cargle helped lead them to the title on their home floor in 2011. While it was considered a coop team and an entire District 210 title, it’s still listed under East since that’s where the team practiced and a majority of them were from. Bolstered by some amazing individual talent, the East girls track and field team won four straight Class 3A state titles between 2013-2016. Aaliyah Brown helped kick that off in 2013 by winning the 100 and 200 meter dash as well as being a member of the first place 4x100-and 4x200 meter relay teams. The Griffin cheer squad took home a trio of titles between 2014- 2017. I was there for the 2017 state championship and once again I will tell anyone that cheerleading is a sport. Since its inception in the fall of 2001, the Griffin football team has made the playoffs every year and been a powerhouse. This past fall they took home their second state championship trophy, capping off a thrilling Class 8A ride with a 23-14 victory over Loyola Academy. East also took second in 2012. The boys volleyball team capped off an outstanding 41-1 season with a state title in 2014 and placed second a year ago. The sports I’ve covered the most at East are both boys and girls basketball and softball. While neither program has brought home a state trophy, you won’t find many better coaches than Rich Kolimas or Jim Martin. Really loved following both of those teams setting school records for wins this season. You also won’t find many better softball programs than the Griffins, who brought home a trio of state trophies in the past four years, including second place finishes in 2015 and 2017. They have a great opportunity to bring home another this spring. One of my favorite things as a sports reporter, in one way or another for 34 years, has been to cover kids of kids that I covered. That and to see athletes I’ve covered go on and become coaches and even professional athletes. Someone I saw numerous times as a softball sensation at Stagg in the late 90’s was Jen Tyrrell, who will be the new principal at Sandburg starting next school year. With her leadership the school will continue success. Which goes to show this... I can list all the titles, great moments, amazing athletic accomplishments in the past decade in this area. But what was behind all of them? People. The wonderful people of the southwest suburbs have made the past 10 years my most enjoyable as a sports reporter. Here’s to the next decade and beyond! high school highlights The rest of the week in high school sports Baseball Lincoln-Way West 10, Homewood-Flossmoor 9 Kevin Davis hit the game-winning RBI to lead the April 2 win. Joe Gonzalez went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Brendan Sturm went 1-for-2 with two RBI. Lincoln-Way West 4, Joliet West 5 Mike Kennedy went 2-for-3, Kevin Davis went 1-for-3, 2 RBI; and Nick Andersen went a perfect 2-for-2, but it wasn’t enough in the one-run loss to Joliet West on March 31. Pitcher Jim Hatfield threw 3 2/3 innings and only gave up one earned run. Softball Lincoln-Way Central 9, Stagg 0 Ashley Platek threw a complete game shutout, adding 16 strikeouts in the effort. Amanda Weyh went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBI, and Carly Alvers went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in the April 2 win. Girls Water Polo Lincoln-Way Central 12, St. Ignatius 6 Megan Cales led the way with five goals in the April 3 win, boosting the Knights’ record to 9-4 on the season. High School Highlights are compile by editor James Sanchez, email@example.com. 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