By Al Zipsie

Here is a preview of the upcoming baseball and softball seasons in the NIC-10.

BASEBALL

Several teams return lots of experience from last year. NIC-10 coaches mention Rockford East, Harlem, Hononegah and Boylan among the teams contending for the title. Last years champion Freeport graduated many key players.

East- Eight starters return including three who were NIC-10 all-conference. Deep pitching will also help East to win the title after a fifth-place finish last year. Leading the way is returning first-team picks Scott Gowan and Brandon Folk. They both will be a factor on the pitching mound and as hitters. Folk hit a .432 clip, third best in the league and had 85 strikeouts in 49 innings as a pitcher. Gowan, had a stingy 1.23 ERA and at the plate had 22 rbi's. Lee, was Honorable Mention hitting .353. Three others will play key roles as position players and pitchers. Catcher Justin Cruz who had a 1.96 ERA will get pitching rotation starts as will outfielder Brandon Raum. Preston Bagley will play third base and be the closer as a pitcher. Martavion Adams provides good speed in the outfield and as the leadoff hitter.

Boylan- Eight starters return from a solid second place finish last year. Outfielder Joey Tobin was Honorable Mention last year hitting .341. Pitcher/outfielder Matt Dmockowski 22 strikeouts and three-year starter Hunter Ciembronowicz all return.

Harlem- All nine starters are experienced and they are led by all-conference first team pitcher/outfielder Eric Steiner who hit. 319 as a sophomore and a 1.68 ERA on the mound. Pitcher/outfielder David Starr who hit. 352.

Hononegah- They have nine players back who started at one time last year. Payton Mather was Honorable Mention as a freshman at shortstop.

Freeport- Last years champion lost several key players to graduation including league MVP Ben Swords. They do return outfielder Ethan Hill who hit .423, fourth best in the NIC-10. Pitcher/outfielder Trevor Thompson and shortstop/pitcher Tegan Woods.

Belvidere North- Two solid pitchers will lead the way from a third-place league finish in Art Vinke, 27 strikeouts and Brock Ashens who lead the league with a stingy 0.67 ERA.

Auburn- Hoping to continue to improve they are led by senior first-team infielder Zachery Adams, who hit .373.

Guilford- They return seven starters in hoping to improve from last years 3-14 record. Back is all-conference first team catcher Jake Klekamp.

Belvidere- Seven starters are back with some solid pitching led by infielder/pitcher Anthony Radaha.

Jefferson- Four returning starters hope to get them out of the cellar after a 1-15 season conference record last year.

 

SOFTBALL

Harlem hopes to defend their championship after a 15-2 mark last year in the NIC-10.

Harlem- Five seniors who have been all-conference first team and starters since they were freshman will lead the way. League MVP Bianca is back at catcher after hitting .560 with 44 rbi. Kristin Fudge at third base, .439. shortstop Megan Johnson .394 with seven home runs and 42 rbi's. Outfielder Mackenzie Lawrence .394 and pitcher Elle Adams as the ace hurler. She notched 18 wins last season with a 2.21 ERA.

Freeport- They were 14-4 and tied for second last year and once again with all nine starters back will hope to contend with Harlem for the crown. Senior outfielder Sydney Ohrtman .434 and Taylor Murray who will take the circle. Two others Special Mention from last year return in shortstop Abby Smith and Josie Bunker at second base.

Hononegah- Hoping to make the move from a second-place tie with Freeport to also challenge Harlem this season. Leading that effort is a strong junior class led by all-conference first team Hannah Haeffner (2.27 ERA pitching and hitting .381) along with Ashton Melaas who won ten games as a pitcher and was fourth in the league in rbi's with 38.

Boylan- Eight returning starters are back including Hannah Nelson who hit. 414 as a sophomore last year. Senior pitcher Paige Webster returns after missing last year with an injury. She was all Conference as a freshman and sophomore.

Belvidere- Hoping to improve on last years 13-5 fourth-place effort. Six starters are back including senior all NIC-10 shortstop Katelyn Wingren who hit at a .471 clip.

Belvidere North- Speed and some good hitting led by all-Conference first team Kylie Johnson at third base and Morgan McNulty who was an honorable mention catcher.

East- Senior pitcher Alexi Raney leads four returning starters.

Auburn- Four juniors return and will be joined in the starting lineup with rest upcoming freshman and sophomores.

Guilford- Winless last year, they bring back five returning starters.

Jefferson- Rebuilding.