By Marty Farmer
Coming off a 15-14 season, the Lyons Township High School softball team hopes to move up in the standings of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division this year.
The Lions' goal is ambitious considering York, Oak Park and River Forest and Downers Grove North reside in the Silver as well. Last year, York made it the Class 4A state semifinals, beating two-time defending state champion OPRF along the way, and Downers Grove North won a regional championship.
LTHS finished 6-6 in the conference last season.
"We play a really competitive schedule, especially with our conference matchups," said third-year coach Nikki Paluch. "We are really excited to play York, Downers Grove North and OPRF this season. It could be a tight race between all of us this season, but I could always be surprised with the other teams in our conference.
"This season we hope to compete for a conference championship and extend our season deep into the state playoffs," she added. "Our strengths are a passion for the game, the leadership we currently have on our team and the knowledge we've gained from last season."
A mix of veterans and newcomers will lead the Lions this spring. Seniors Katelyn Malikowski and Josie Arriaga and junior Payton McQueeny are the top returners.
Malikowski, a three-year varsity starter who plays shortstop, had a .305 batting average, .418 on-base percentage and scored 21 runs in 2018.
"Kate leads by example. Her hard work pushes her teammates to be the best," Paluch said. "Her quickness and in the infield and on the bases have contributed to her success."
Arriaga and McQueeny are excellent defensive players in left field and behind the plate, respectively.
"Josie is a quick player with great instincts and a loud leader in our outfield," Paluch said. "Payton caught the majority of our games last year. She is a wall behind the plate and always finds a way to take the positives out of any situation."
Newcomers to watch include senior infielder/outfielder Meagan Torres, sophomore pitcher/centerfielder Ava Kostecki and freshman pitcher/first baseman Lily Hanafin.