PERU — The word new could be the motto of the St. Bede Lady Bruins softball team for 2014.
After finishing 4th at the IHSA Class 2A state softball tournament, the Lady Bruins will look for a new mission and new leaders under a new coaching staff that looks to be like a lineup change.
Enter head coach Mike Urbanski replacing former head coach Bill Prokup, who resigned this past fall after guiding the team to the state tournament. Urbanski will be assisted by his father-in-law, Bill Forrest, who in the late 90s was the IVCC head softball coach.
Seniors Emmi Christensen, Tara Kunkel, Lexie Miranda, Morgan Knobloch, Christine Daley and Olivia Mueller return, looking to replace the graduation of Nicole Yaklich, Morgan Dean, Lydia Stariha, Barbi Prokup, Abbey Nowakowski and Lainie Schweickert.
Enter newcomer’s juniors Tristan Phegley, Sydney Eustice, Molly Considine and Rachel Cessna along with senior newcomers Raley Mauck and Laura Sickley to join them.
Christensen, who pitched in seven games last year, will be the Lady Bruins ace after the graduation of current Lewis University pitcher Schweickert. Christensen is one of four players on the SBA roster listed as pitchers including Kunkel, Eustice and Phegley.
Christensen will be looked at for some pop at the plate after she led the team with 4 home runs and led the team with 24 RBIs.
Kunkel just beat out Christensen for the highest returning average with .329.
Enter a new conference with the Three Rivers replacing the now defunct NCIC featuring the likes of former conference rivals Hall, Princeton along with Kewanee, Amboy, Bureau Valley, Morrison, Sterling Newman, Sherrard, Rockridge, Port Byron Riverdale, Orion, Prophetstown, Fulton and the non-conference schedule of local rivalries Putnam County, Mendota, L-P, Ottawa and Ottawa Marquette while traveling to Tennessee to play in the Warrior Classic.
Urbanski, a physical education teacher in the LaSalle Elementary School system, believes the strengths of his team are that they are full of seniors who have a drive to be as successful as they can be.
“We have not had the opportunity to really all play together and work together a lot,” said Urbanski of his team’s early season weaknesses because of limitations with weather conditions.
“We will hold high expectations for each athlete to go out and try their hardest and to do the best they can while is proud of their school and their success,” said Urbanski of his goals for his inaugural high school softball coaching stint. “We have a great group that has a ton of athletic talent that has put forth a great effort.”
With weather not cooperating during the early preseason, Urbanski and his coaching staff are still moving people around to find their spots.
The success the Lady Bruins had last spring will have opposing teams bringing their best against the green and white this spring.
Saturday’s season opener vs. Riverdale has been canceled. The Lady Bruins will travel to Tennessee next weekend for their annual spring trip before returning for a March 31 home game vs. Rockridge.
• The Lady Bruins are holding a Lenten Fish Fry fundraiser from 4:30 to 8 p.m. April 5 at the LaSalle VFW. The meal includes fish, fries and slaw. Carryouts are available. Tickets are $8 teach.
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