It seems like graduation always chips away at the core of a high school softball team.

It seems like graduation always chips away at the core of a high school softball team.

However, Geneseo Coach Pat Mitchell sees it as an opportunity for new players to shape the team into something special.

“There’s a lot of experience we have to replace,” Mitchell said. “It’s just their time. Now is the time for that next group to take their turn.”

With the graduation of pitcher Jane Thomas, catcher Caitlin Gilmore, shortstop Anna McAvoy, left fielder Allison Yager and designated hitter Kaitlyn McKeag, Geneseo will be without five players who were varsity staples over the past two years.

Geneseo accomplished a lot last season coming off a 23-11 campaign where they won the Washington Invite title.

Ranked No. 17 in the Class 3A Illinois Coaches Association softball preseason poll to start the season, Geneseo returns two of its most decorated players with Ava Bieneman and Delaney Ostrowski.

A junior, Bieneman earned a spot on the Class 3A Illinois Coaches Association All-State first team batting leadoff for Geneseo last season.

Mitchell believes Bieneman’s work ethic, elite speed and softball savvy set her apart from most high school players.

“We’ve had fast runners before who didn’t have near the softball IQ Ava does,” Mitchell said. “She’s exciting to watch because she can do so many things.”

A senior, Ostrowski earned All-State second-team honors last season pitching and playing first base for the Lady Leafs.

A Northern Illinois University commit, Ostrowski’s big game experience in the circle will be crucial as she comes off a 9-3 season where she also logged three saves.

Mitchell thinks Ostrowski has the ability to grab a stranglehold on the position, but he would like to see a mix of two or three pitchers see time in the circle to start the season.

A junior, Geneseo’s Bailey Mitchell earned some varsity experience in the circle last season, and she dominated competition when she pitched JV.

Coach Mitchell believes Geneseo’s biggest breakouts will be seniors Gabi Allen and Bailey Spindel.

“If the two seniors can make that leap it will be huge,” Mitchell said. “If they make the leap others will follow.”

The Leafs’ Hannah Himmelman returns for her senior season after earning time on the diamond last season as an outfielder and pinch runner.

Geneseo’s junior class have developed a winning mentality finishing last season with a 29-1 JV record.

“It seems like we always have a mix of young and old,” Mitchell said. “This year it’s going to be a lot of juniors and seniors, but we have a couple of sophomores who can hit the ball too.”

A junior, Mary Thomas grabbed hold of the opening at third base and was a solid contributor at the hot corner last season.

Geneseo’s Cora Varland had a taste of varsity playing time last season after pillaging JV competition with her mix of speed and power.

A junior, Eden McAvoy proved she had great raw power with double-digit home runs at the JV level.

Dawsyn Hartman will make and impact in the infield, Kenadie Buysse showed she had potential to hit for extra bases.

Katie Jagers will add to the infield depth after showing skill at the plate during JV games.

The Lady Leafs’ schedule will put them to the test early.

Geneseo starts the season with three road games before hosting its home opener on March 19.

The Leafs will travel to South Carolina to compete in the Myrtle Beach Invite on March 25-27.

After the Lady Leafs return, they travel to play Sterling ranked No. 13 in Class 3A on April 2, and Geneseo will host Rock Island Ranked No. 1 in Class 4A on April 3.

Geneseo softball roster

2 Kenadie Buysse     Jr.     OF/C
3 Cora Varland     Jr.     OF
5 Gabi Allen     Sr.     IF
7 Dawsyn Hartman     Jr.     IF
9 Mary Thomas     Jr.     IF
15 Bailey Spindel     Sr.     IF
16 Bailey Mitchell     Jr.     OF/P
27 Delaney Ostrowski     Sr.     P, IF
29 Hannah Himmelman     Sr.     OF
32 Katie Jagers     Jr.     IF
33 Ava Bieneman     Jr.     IF
38 Eden McAvoy     Jr.     C
Coach: Pat Mitchell. Assistant coaches: Katie Carius, Jesse Dobbels, Jennifer Johnson, Mike Kernan, Bob
Pettit and Tom Rusk. Manager: Kelsey Frakes.

Softball schedule 2019

March 13    Geneseo at Rockridge    Rockridge High School    4:30 p.m.
March 14    Geneseo at Orion    Orion High School    4:30 p.m.
March 18    Geneseo at Alleman    Alleman Athletic Complex    4:30 p.m.
March 19    Dunlap at Geneseo    JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.
March 21    Moline at Geneseo    JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.
March 25-27    Myrtle Beach Invite     Myrtle Beach South Carolina    TBA
April 2    Geneseo at Sterling    Sterling High School    4:30 p.m.
April 3    Rock Island at Geneseo     JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.
April 4    Kewanee at Geneseo    JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.
April 5    Geneseo at Kaneland    Kaneland High School    4:30 p.m.
April 9    LaSalle-Peru at Geneseo    JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.    
April 11    Geneseo at Rochelle    Rochelle High School    4:30 p.m.
April 13    Geneseo at Rock Falls (DH)    Hinders Field    10 a.m.
April 15    Geneseo at Galesburg    Galesburg High School    4:30 p.m.
April 16    Yorkville at Geneseo    JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.
April 18-19    Washington Invite    Washington High School    TBA
April 22    Geneseo at UT    United Township High School    4:30 p.m.
April 25    Ottawa at Geneseo    JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.
April 30    Morris at Geneseo    JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.
May 2    Geneseo at LaSalle-Peru    Veteran’s Park    4:30 p.m.  
May 3    Sycamore at Geneseo    JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.
May 6    Alleman at Geneseo    JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.
May 7    DeKalb at Geneseo    JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.
May 9    Geneseo at Ottawa    Ottawa High School    4:30 p.m.
May 10    Geneseo at Princeton    Princeton High School    4:30 p.m.
May 13    Sterling at Geneseo    JF Edwards Complex    4:30 p.m.
May 14    Geneseo at Moline    Moline High School    4:30 p.m.
May 18    Geneseo Super Duals    JF Edwards Complex    10 a.m.