The Lane Tech softball team won the city championship last season, but 5th year head coach George Stavrakas and his crew have bigger plans in mind for the 2012 campaign.
After losing 3-2 in the sectional semifinal against No. 1-seeded New Trier to end their 2011 season with a 24-14 record, the Indians look to bounce back and do some major damage in this year’s state tournament.
“We really focus on state,” Stavrakas said. “The city championship is great, but the minute that game is over we’re moving on and getting ready to go to the state playoffs. We’re not here (to win a city championship), we’re here to make history and go downstate.”
Among the key returning starters for the Indians are senior pitcher Kaleigh Ambrose, sophomore catcher Emily Espinosa, and sophomore shortstop Hailey Pieruccini. Stavrakas will likely have Ambrose batting lead-off this season, as per his philosophy to get the best hitter as many at-bats as possible.
“(Ambrose) is tremendous to watch,” he said. “I’ve never seen a girl hit the ball as far as she does. (Espinosa) has the capability to be a division I or II college player, and (Pieruccini) hit a ton for us last year too.”
Aside from adding three juniors from the JV squad, the roster for Lane tech consists of nine returning starters (six sophomores); Stavrakas is glad to have that core group back as they continue to grow together as players.
“We pretty much have the same group as last year,” he said. “So I’m expecting big things from them.”
The Indians will have to endure a tough schedule on the way to the state playoffs, consisting mostly of road games. Stavrakas knows his hitting and defense will be improved this season, but it’s the overall fight of the team that will get them through their tough schedule.
“The main thing is the fight with this team,” he said. “Once the freshman got acclimated (last season) and the returning players accepted them, we became a team that was one run away from beating New trier and heading downstate. This team is resilient, and they play with a purpose.”
The road to the state tournament will begin Tuesday as the Indians head to Regina for the season opener.
*** Updated with additional information12/03/26 7.57A***