By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – Both the Harlem baseball and softball teams have a good feeling about their upcoming seasons.

A big part of it is each team having a solid core of returning players.

For example, the Huskies have seven players with three years at the varsity level. The lengthy list of baseball veterans includes 10 seniors. They are T.J. Chance, Aaron Cusimano, Tyler Dietz, Bryce Goodall, Zach Jones, Joey Parsons, Cody Paholski, Brock Soter, Drake Sundstrom and Chase Taylor.

Juniors are Zack Clark and Jake Nimtz; sophomores expected to contribute are Jamie Ballanos and Omar Ramirez.

Doug Livingston returns as head coach. He is starting his 24th year of coaching, 18 of them as a head coach at Auburn and Harlem. In that time, his teams have won more than 300 games.

Of this team, he said if everyone plays as they should, “we should have a chance of competing for the conference and regional championships.”

Harlem was 10-8 in NIC-10 play last year and 13-17 overall. It was eliminated by Hononegah in the regional.

In softball, the Lady Huskies were 13-5 in the conference and won more than 20 games overall, on their way to a berth in the sectional finals. There, they dropped a 4-0 decision to Barrington, which continued on to win its own super-sectional and ultimately finish fourth in the state.

Eight players return from that team, including the group of freshmen (now sophomores) known as the Fabulous Five.

Harlem is led by three-year varsity starter Emily Guske, a senior who played second base and was first-team,  all- conference 2015. She hit .431 with 40 runs scored and 10 runs batted in (RBIs).

There are two other seniors. One of them is outfielder Kara Fudge, also a three-year varsity player, who hit .192 last year with 10 RBIs and one run scored. The other also is an outfielder, Kayla Kampmeier, who carried a .250 batting average with 12 runs scored, eight RBIs and one home run.

The five sophomores include:

* Bianca Barone, third baseman and catcher, who hit .387 with 32 runs scored, 26 RBIs and five home runs.

* Megen Johnson, shortstop, .330 batting average with 23 runs scored, 25 RBIs and three home runs.

* Mackenzie Lawrence, outfielder and lefty slapper, recorded a .324 batting average, scored 11 runs and drove in five.

* Kirstin Fudge, catcher, hit .308 with 18 RBIs, five runs scored and one home run.

* Elle Adams, pitcher and first baseman, who hit .268 with 24 runs scored, 16 RBIs and three home runs.

Contributions are expected this season from seniors Victoria Bevins and Brianna Purifoy; sophomores Madalynn Fajardo and Catie Bolding; and freshman Olivia Penney.

Harlem loses three starters to graduation. They are four-year starting pitcher Olivia Fluehr, power hitter and home run leader Dakota Watson and outfielder, key RBI hitter Torah Morgan.

Jennifer Corwin is in her ninth year as head coach at Harlem. Her teams have gone 112-32 in the NIC-10 and 182-92-5 overall. Assistant coaches are Angela McNames and Miranda Anderson.

Among the 2015 highlights were tying for third place in the conference, defeating Hononegah, 5-2, to win the regional championship and edging Huntley in a 5-4 thriller to reach the sectional finals.

“We have a very bright outlook for 2016,” coach Corwin said. “We have a group of ladies that understand the importance of working hard in the offseason and during the season, so they are able to accomplish team and individual goals.

“Our experienced players have done an excellent job embracing the younger players so they can come together to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves. Some of our goals are to win the conference and make a strong postseason run.”

Harlem has won two state champioinships in softball, in 1980 and 1999. The Lady Huskies last qualified for the state finals in 2005.

Harlem spring ahead






Bob Balgemann photo

From left – Graduated seniors Dakota Watson, Torah Morgan and Olivia Fluehr were key members of Harlem’s successful 2015 softball team.

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