Softball: Lady Hubs returning key varsity starters

Senior Morgan Smardo will be a key pitcher for the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity softball team this season. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Two-time Interstate 8 honoree Smardo highlights senior class

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Lady Hub varsity softball team held its first practice of the season Monday afternoon. With a handful of returning players back on the roster, head coach Deanna Jacobs and the Lady Hubs will look to build on their seven-win season from last spring. Rochelle will tee off the season with a home game against South Beloit on Wednesday, March 22

“We’re really excited to have some returning players,” Jacobs said. “We’re excited to have some options behind the plate, but we graduated nearly our entire starting infield from last season, so we’re playing around with some options to figure out what our infield will look like this season.”

The Lady Hubs are returning multiple varsity starters including senior and two-time Interstate 8 All-Conference honoree Morgan Smardo. Junior catchers Ella Alfano and Macy Belmonte are each expected to take on key roles for the Lady Hubs, who are seeking to replace two All-Conference honorees from last season including Jordin Dickey and MeLisa Young.

“We’ve already seen a lot of growth in our hitting,” Jacobs said. “We’ve done some drills in the cages and we’re seeing our girls develop more power behind their swings which has been fun to see. Having Morgan and Lauren [Dyer] back in the circle will be huge for us. They’ve been working really hard on their pitching over the winter and I think their work is starting to show.”

Sophomore Lauren Dyer and senior Layla Pelan also return for the Lady Hubs, who will host Belvidere North on March 24 and Rockford Guilford on March 27 before departing for Jacksonville, Florida later that week for an out-of-state tournament. Rochelle will begin Interstate 8 play against Plano on Monday, April 4.

“Morgan will be a huge leader for us and we feel comfortable putting Layla anywhere on the field,” Jacobs said. “Lauren has stepped up as a second-year player and she’s learning how to use her voice. Having Ella and Macy behind the plate will create some competition that will allow us to do a few different things. Our goal is to be better than we were yesterday. We want to improve every day and we’re looking forward to traveling to Jacksonville over spring break.”