The News-Gazette's softball Top 10: Westville earns No. 1 spot

Apr. 19—A four-year standout in the pitcher's circle. A team trying to get back to state. With a month to go in the regular season, the area softball contenders are starting to separate themselves. Sports Editor Matt Daniels breaks it all down in The News-Gazette's Top 10 poll:

1. Westville

Record: 16-2

The Tigers' fortunes stop and start with Abby Sabalaskey. The Northern Kentucky signee and shutdown left-handed pitcher can stifle any opposing offense when she's in the circle. But coach Jay Katavich's program can also count on solid offensive production from the likes of Lainey Cook, Lani Gondzur and Lilly Kiesel, among others, in chasing a Vermilion Valley Conference title and elusive IHSA postseason hardware this spring.

2. LeRoy

Record: 17-2

A 9-0 loss at Westville on Wednesday afternoon was surprising only because of the margin of defeat. But coach Doug Hageman's Panthers will be a tough out in the Class 1A postseason for any foe, much like they were last year en route to a third-place finish at the state tournament. Natalie Loy, Haley Cox, Molly Buckles, Emily Bogema, Lilly Long and Laila Carr are just some of the top options LeRoy can count on it when matters most.

3. St. Joseph-Ogden

Record: 16-6

Southeast Missouri State signee Addy Martinie is the latest Division I talent suiting up for the Spartans, who handed Class 3A perennial power Mt. Zion its first loss of the season on Wednesday. When Timera Blackburn-Kelley or Madison Stevens are pitching well, coach Larry Sparks' offense can hang with any team in the state, regardless of class. Add in a new all-turf venue at Randy Wolken Field and things are looking good for SJ-O.

4. Milford/Cissna Park

Record: 12-1

Whenever a ball is involved, Addison Lucht usually finds success. The volleyball and girls' basketball standout at Cissna Park is faring well on the softball diamond, too, for the Iroquois County co-op program this spring. Kami Muehling, Abby Storm and Hunter Mowrey, among others, could help coach Alyse Morefield's Bearcats contend with Westville in the VVC and make some noise in the Class 1A postseason.

5. Argenta-Oreana

Record: 11-2

Watch out for the Bombers in Class 1A when the postseason rolls around in mid-May. Coach Jeff Hollon's team relies heavily on Miriah Powell when she's in the batter's box and when she pitches, but Argenta-Oreana has rolled past most of its competition this season. Its only losses have come against Class 2A schools in Monticello and Williamsville, with Sophia Wicklund, Abbey Matthews and Abby Jackson other key contributors.

6. Watseka

Record: 11-2

The Warriors picked up their fifth straight victory on Thursday at Salt Fork and will try to keep their win streak intact Friday with a VVC game at Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin. Sarah Parsons, Brianna Denault, Jasmine Essington and Christa Holohan are just some of the key cogs for coach Barry Bauer's program that thrives with multi-sport standouts who have already experienced success this school year.

7. Unity

Record: 13-6-1

Western Illinois signee Ruby Tarr is finally in her senior season. A four-year starter with the Rockets who has seen nothing but success so far — and has played a significant role in that success — is intent on keeping the winning vibes going in Tolono. Tarr is the linchpin of coach Aimee Davis' lineup, but Lindy Bates, Jenna Adkins, Sophia Beckett and Taylor Drennan are capable of extra-base hits every time they step up to the plate.

8. Monticello

Record: 13-9

No one can say the Sages have had an easy schedule, playing the likes of Chatham Glenwood, Charleston and LeRoy, among others, in nonconference play. A Tuesday home win against Westville certainly opened people's eyes to what coach Lauren Richardson's Sages can accomplish. Marrissa Miller, Cassidee Stoffel, Thea Key and Lynnsey Trybom are looking to make some noise in the Illini Prairie Conference now.

9. Villa Grove

Record: 12-10-1

The Blue Devils are no slouch offensively. Not with veterans like Alison Pangburn, Alex Brown, Kalyn Cordes and others at coach Jeana Block's disposal. A challenging schedule has Villa Grove just above .500, but that difficult slate could pay dividends the rest of the season in the Lincoln Prairie Conference and next month when Class 1A postseason begins. The Blue Devils are aiming for their second straight regional championship in May.

10. BHRA

Record: 12-7

Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin seems to have found its stride both offensively and with its pitching. Ella Myers had a day to remember in Thursday's 17-0 win against Oakwood with a grand slam and seven RBI. Eva Ronto had a similar moment to cherish on Monday by throwing a no-hitter in an 11-0 win against Georgetown-Ridge Farm. First-year coach Lindsey Andrews has her Blue Devils playing well at the right time.