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Sports

Softball: Grace Stevenson, Reapers ready to swing into spring

All-State shortstop anchors a young core that has the present, and future bright in Plano

Plano's Grace Stevenson singles against Herscher in Plano April 20.
Plano's Grace Stevenson singles against Herscher in Plano April 20.

Dwayne Love jokes that he may need to buy new softballs, with the way Grace Stevenson hits the ball in the batting cage.

It's a good problem to have.

"She's just hitting the cover off the ball," said Love, Plano's softball coach, of his sophomore shortstop. "I'm looking for great things out of her."

Indeed.

Stevenson was third team All-State by the Illinois Coaches Association last year, and she's just getting started.

She's part of a young core back from a 14-17 team that has the present, and future, looking bright around Plano.

"We have two seniors, but mainly it's juniors, a nice group of girls that have played at the varsity level for a few years," Love said. "I'm really excited to get them on the field."

Stevenson burst onto the scene in her first high school season. She hit .453 with seven doubles, three triples, two homers, 22 runs scored and 17 runs batted in.

Her personality allowed Stevenson to fit like a glove in her first year in Plano.

"Grace, she is tough, a super kid to be around, Love said. "You don't see her go over the top. She just plays the game, smiles a lot. She likes to be liked by her teammates. She loves the game, bottom line."

She also appeared to make a seamless transition from third base to shortstop.

"I want her to be a leader out there," Love said. "She can make the plays that you're thinking, 'Man, I wish I had eight of them out there.'"

She fits in behind a large group of juniors.

Brianna Lupa, in her third year on varsity, went 7-9 last season with 151 strikeouts on the mound. She appears to be coming into her own as Plano's ace.

"She's really taking control of the game," Love said. "She has got better at the mental edge of the game, got stronger and toughened up on the mound. The command of her pitches has got a lot better. She's mature on the field, and off."

Junior outfielder Kaylee Read hit .337 last year, and junior second baseman Julia Gonzalez .313. Behind the plate, sophomore Morgan Kee will fill the big shoes left by graduated catcher Anna Love.

"We will ask a lot out of her," coach Love said. "It's a tough job, but I think she can handle it."

Love is thankful to have Lexi Tisberger around for one last athletic season. The three-sport athlete, who plays first base in softball, hit .274 last spring. And stats really don't do justice to what she means to the Reapers.

"Lexi, what a joy having her as a senior," Love said. "It's the crowning jewel for me. She is such a competitor, works hard. I couldn't ask for a better senior leader. It will be sad when I have to wish her good luck."

The Reapers are anxious to get on the field. Their season opener Monday was postponed, but Love looks forward to what's to come.

"We're building on what we had, and looking for a good year," Love said. "They're fun be with. It should be an exciting year."

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