Baseball: Division III
Head Coach - Tom Russell, second year as varsity coach.
The Leland & Gray baseball team is on a roll, coming off back-to-back state championships, with last years title coming under first-year coach Russell, who now begins his second season at the helm.
After losing three seniors to graduation, the Rebels still return plenty of championship experience including seniors Tyler Russell, Zac Peterson, Gabe Pozzi and junior Collin Nystrom, who are also this years' captains.
In fact, nine players on the roster have a state title under the belt and a couple have two, that's some pretty good experience to have heading into the season.
"We have a lot of players on this team that know how to win and have that championship experience under their belts," coach Russell said in a recent interview.
"That can go a long way when tournament time comes around. However, I always stess to the players that you still have to go out and work hard and take nothing for granted. And these kids are working hard."
Offensively, the Rebels have plenty of contact hitters and speed, which is why they like to put pressure on the opponent by stealing bases, hitting and running and taking the extra base as often as possible.
"We got some good speed in the line up, therefore we like to utilize that speed and put added pressure on the defense to make plays."
Nystom and sophomore Brandon Reilley will set the table at the top of the order, with Russell, Pozzi, Peterson and junior VanOsdol filling out the heart of the line up.
Defensively, the Rebels are strong up the middle with Russell behind the plate, Nystrom and James Crowtherat alternating at second base and shortstop and Reilly in center field.
The corner infield positions will be manned by Peterson at third base and junior Tyler Miller at first.
Others who will see time in the outfield include VanOsdol, Noah Chapin, and Josh Fontaine. Also watch for freshman Tyler Barnum to get some time in the infield and possibly on the pitcher's mound.
The pitching rotation includes Pozzi as the number one guy, with VanOsdol, Miller, Miller and Barnum all getting the chance to make an impact on the mound.
One trump card for coach Russell will also be the return of senior Trevor Howe, who is currently inelligable, but looks to re-join the team early in the season.
Softball: Division III
Head Coach - Tammy Claussen, eleventh season as varsity coach.
After losing a few seniors to graduation, the Lady Rebels return plenty of varsity experience and plenty of offense, to go along with sophomore pitching sensation Nicole Sherman and her hard-hitting battery mate Aly Marcucci.
However, this team has something to prove, to themselves.
After posting a 14-2 record last year and earning a number-two seed in the tournament, the Lady Rebels got upset in the first round.
"It was a tough way to end the season last year," coach Claussen said in a recent interview.
"But I think the players learned from it and are determined to not let that happen again."
The Rebels should have no problem scoring runs as they possess good bats up and down the line up, including speedy lead off hitter Kayla Joyce, Marcucci, Ashley Goddard, Chelsea Cox, Michaela Tietz and Ashley Meyer.
This line up is balanced with speed and good hitters and can play small ball, however they also possess a little power in the heart of the order as well. Scoring runs should not be a problem.
The sophomore hurler Sherman is already dominant on the mound, therefore if the Lady Rebels can play solid defense behind her, they certainly have enough talent to win a lot of games this season and make a serious run at a title.
After a tough, season-opening loss, the Rebels bounced back with two impressive offensive explosions in home wins over Arlington and Woodstock.
Against Arlington, Sherman threw a complete-game, two-hitter with 12 strikeouts, in a 15-1 victory over the Lady Eagles.
Aly Marcucci led the offense with three hits (including two doubles) and three RBI's, while Sherman helped her own cause with two hits and two RBI's.
Goddard also pitched in with two doubles while Cox also added two hits in the win.
The Lady Rebels follow that up with another impressive performance with a 23-0 shutout over the Lady Wasps.
Sherman was once again, impressive on the mound, throwing a complete-game, one-hit shut out with nine strike outs and only one walk.
The only hit she gave up, a single in the fourth inning to Woodstock's Emily Koetsier.
Lead off hitter Kayla Joyce led the offense with three hits, three RBI's and four runs scored, while Tietz added two hits and two RBI's.
Over the two-game stretch, Sherman gave up just one run and three hits while striking out a whopping 21 batters.