Loyola recruit Anna Kiel, whose twin sister doesn’t play softball, gears up for South Elgin. ‘I was just good at it.’

How important is pitcher/first baseman Anna Kiel to South Elgin’s softball team?

Coach Brad Reynard would be more than happy to have another one of the junior left-hander in his lineup if he could. In fact, it actually was a possibility, in a manner of speaking.

Kiel comes from a family with two sets of twins.

“My twin sister Kate doesn’t play softball,” Anna said. “We have twin brothers who are freshmen here this year. David plays baseball and Adam played soccer in the fall.”

Anna and Kate tried soccer and softball together.

“I stayed with it, but Kate didn’t like it,” Anna said of softball.

Neither of them cared much for soccer.

Their parents, Grant and Cassandra, wisely have let the kids go their own way.

Why softball?

“I was just good at it,” Anna said. “Everyone likes to do things when they’re good at them.”

Current high school teammates Madison Hunt and Ava McDaniel joined Kiel on a youth team that also had plenty of early success.

Adventures in travel ball soon followed.

“I’m honestly really grateful to have parents who understand they don’t have to be the loudest person in the stands,” Kiel said. “They’ve tried to stay away from coaching me from the sideline.”

Kiel has played the past three years with the New Lenox Lightning, including up a level last summer with the program’s 18U team coached by Jeff Abbott, father of Loyola coach Alicia Abbott.

The Ramblers were recruiting two of her travel teammates when Kiel caught their attention. She then was recruited herself and committed to their scholarship offer on Dec. 30, 2023.

“After visiting in the fall, I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else other than Loyola,” she said.

It’s been quite the journey for Kiel, who made varsity for the Storm as a freshman and was the team’s second starter behind 2023 graduate Cece Bell for two years.

Kiel, who went 6-2 as a freshman, was 5-3 with a 1.88 ERA last season as the Storm finished with a 26-6-1 record.

One of eight returnees joined by three freshmen, Kiel is being counted on by Reynard in the circle and to lead the offense from the No. 3 spot in the batting order.

The Storm (3-4) are off to a bit of a rocky start, but that included a spring break trip last week to Tennessee where they went 2-3. Kiel capped it with a 10-strikeout performance in a 7-3 win.

“I felt I redeemed myself for the rest of the trip because I didn’t pitch that well,” Kiel said.

After hitting .506 last season, Kiel sits at .524 so far this spring.

“We’re still trying to find our identity,” Reynard said. “A lot of times opposing coaches talk about Anna and how good she’s going to be in the circle, but she’s already pretty good.”

Kiel credits work with personal pitching coach Jill Waldron and past work with hitting coaches Phil Latoria for three years and the past six months with Mark Doran.

“(Waldron) is always bringing new drills to it each week so you’re not doing the same exact thing,” Kiel said. “The curveball is my favorite to throw and the screwball is probably second best.

“I’ve been working on my change-up and rise a lot, and they’re really improved. I use the rise as a setup pitch. If you can change the batter’s eye level, it helps.”

Her screwball is especially tough on left-handed hitters, breaking away from them.

“I don’t consider myself a strikeout pitcher,” Kiel said. “My goal is to pitch to weak contact. With a strong defense behind you, you can’t really go wrong doing that.”

Meanwhile, she does little wrong at the plate.

“Offensively, she has been our team leader this year,” Reynard said. “Every time she hits the ball, she hits it hard. That’s the sign of a good hitter. She’s not missing.

“She’s squaring it up. She hits for power to all field, and she’s a monster — a doubles machine.”