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Nine Fastpitch Travel Team Players Named 1st Team All-Area

From Left to Right: Jamie O'Brien, Kelsey Gonzalez, Kendall Duffy, LaRi Mitchell, Mackenzie Buchelt, Julianne Rurka, Ashley Parenti
06/12/2012 9:42 AM - 1st Team All-Area

Jamie O’Brien, (16U) Neuqua Valley - The young Wildcats leaned heavily on this multitalented sophomore, and she responded. She shined brightly in the biggest games, beating Benet 1-0 in regional final and singling in the game-winner at Bartlett. The speedy O’Brien hit .427 with area-best 11 triples, 30 RBI and 37 runs scored and went 13-11 with 123 strikeouts. No pitcher fields the position better. “She grew a lot as a pitcher and as a player,” Neuqua coach Melissa Wilson said.

Kelsey Gonzalez, (18U Gold) Naperville Central - Some players hit, ran or played defense better, but nobody brought the whole package more than this senior shortstop. Gonzalez hit .426 with 6 doubles, 27 runs scored and 28 RBI. Committed to Southern Illinois, she has as sure-handed a glove as it gets and near flawless baserunning instincts. “She’s the best shortstop we’ve had in my 29 years as coach,” Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum said.

Kendall Duffy, (18U Gold) Benet - Duffy was one of the team captains, but as Benet coach Jerry Schilf put “she is the captain.” The senior catcher committed to Bradley called all the pitches and took sophomore pitcher Molly Moran under her wing. Duffy also enjoyed her best year at the plate, hitting .460 with 8 homers, 13 doubles and 52 RBI. “She led the team,” Schilf said, “and the kids followed her.”

LaRi Mitchell, West Aurora - No center fielder made the plays like this Middle Tennessee-bound senior. The unanimous all-DVC selection missed the final 4 games after being injured against Wheaton North but still batted .494 with 29 runs and a school-record 22 steals. “LaRi is a very special player, one that comes along only once every 10-20 years,” West Aurora coach Randy Hayslett said. “She made a catch against Naperville North that was perhaps the best catch I’ve ever seen on a softball or baseball field. We should have made an instructional video on LaRi’s outfield play. From the angles she took to the amount of ground she covered, along with her ability to get into proper positioning to make a dead-on accurate throw each and every time was a thing of beauty — that you never got tired of watching.”

Mackenzie Buchelt, (18U Gold) Lisle - The big bat in the Lions’ lineup last four years, Buchelt’s 10 homers as a senior broke the school record. A third baseman who will play at Valparaiso, she hit .442 with 9 doubles, 46 RBI and scored 29 runs. In four years Buchelt helped lead Lisle to 108 wins, four sectional titles and a state tournament appearance. “She’s known for her hitting,” Lisle coach Jen Pomatto said, “but she’s also a good fielder.”

Julianne Rurka, (16U) Benet - A rock at third base, this take-charge sophomore was a steadying presence for the 32-5 Redwings, who set program win record. A natural catcher, Rurka played as good a third base as any in the area. She hit .555 with 10 doubles, 4 triples, 4 homers, 52 RBI and 47 runs scored, batting cleanup for a lineup that scored 358 runs. “She’s just a very dependable player,” Benet coach Jerry Schilf said.

Ashley Parenti, Fenwick - As accomplished as Parenti already is, it's hard to believe she's only a sophomore. The Friars' second basemen is already a two-time all-conference selection.

Alise Perna, Metea Valley - Speedy sophomore patrolled center field for the Mustangs and batted .377 with 20 RBI. She had 43 hits and earned Upstate Eight Conference Valley honors.

Maria Prete, Westmont - Prete not only is a slick fielder —“She was the rock of our infield,” said Westmont coach Sue Zapinski—she’s also the Sentinels’ top hitter. Prete was Westmont’s team leader in batting average (.434), home runs (4), doubles (15), on-base percentage (.500) and slugging percentage (.708) while hitting third in the lineup. “She took charge in a good way, and that was really important for us,” Zapinski said. “I see nothing but good things for her.”

Honorable mention:

Sarah Collalti (St. Charles East, so., OF) (16U)
Alex Caliva (Glenbard North, So.) (16U)
Emily York (Benet, Fr.) (14U)

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