PALATINE, Ill. – The Harper College softball program took the next step in 2014, finishing 11-15 overall and 9-8 in conference play. The team seems primed for even bigger things in the future, as head coach Cray Allen and his coaching staff signed four incoming freshman and five returning players to play for the Hawks in 2015.
The four first-year players who signed their NJCAA Letters of Intent are Jamie Haze (Palatine), Lane Winkler (Rolling Meadows), Emily Butler (Hersey) and Olivia Hamilton (Homewood Flossmoor).
Haze, a third baseman and outfielder, was a three-year varsity starter and letter winner for Palatine High School She earned All-Conference and All-Area honors for the Pirates in 2013. The four-year honor roll student will major in kinesiology at Harper.
Winkler will play catcher and the corner infield positions for the Hawks in 2015. A four-year letter winner in softball and two-year letter winner in basketball at Rolling Meadows, she earned All-Conference accolades for softball in 2013. Winkler was a seven-semester honor roll student and will major in criminal justice.
Butler will play second base and outfield for the Hawks. She earned a varsity letter in softball for the Huskies and was also an All-Conference bowler.
Hamilton, an outfielder and pitcher, was a three-year varsity letter winner at Homewood Flossmoor and also earned a varsity letter in cheerleading. She was her softball team's captain and also earned the Sportsmanship Award for the Vikings.
"The desire is high from this incoming group to add to our existing core," Allen said. "You can just tell that they have high expectations of themselves, which will lead to quality preparation and add professionalism to our program."
Five players will be back for their sophomore seasons: Raegan Fingerman (Fox River Grove, Ill./Barrington), Lindsay Cannon (McHenry, Ill./McHenry West), Sam Cummings (Roselle, Ill./Lake Park), Beth Petrunich (McHenry, Ill./McHenry East) and Anna Kawka (Franklin Park, Ill./East Leyden).
Fingerman provided the pop in the middle of the order in her freshman season, hitting a team-best .466 with four homers, 38 RBIs, 41 hits, seven doubles and two triples in 26 games. She earned First Team All-Conference, First Team All-Region and N4C Academic All-Conference distinctions as well as Harper College Athlete of the Week honors.
Cannon patrolled the outfield for Harper and became the Hawks' primary leadoff hitter as the season went on, hitting .373 with a team-bests in both runs (37) and stolen bases (10). She earned Second Team All-Conference and First Team All-Region accolades.
Cummings hit .352 with a team-best five homers (T-24th in nation) and 26 RBIs in just 22 games while playing multiple positions for the Hawks. She received Second Team All-Conference, Region 4 All-Tournament Team, and N4C Academic All-Conference distinctions.
Petrunich provided a steady presence in the field at second base and also hit .333 with 11 RBIs and 26 runs scored.
Kawka showed her ability in the outfield for the Hawks, playing in 16 games in 2014.
"They know our system and the expectations that come with this coaching staff and program. It will be an even easier year for them to get comfortable and continue their individual program, which can only lead to the program taking the next step," Allen said.
While Allen is excited about his returning players and influx of new talent, he knows it takes hard work to become great.
"Nothing great was instantly created," he said. "It takes time and perseverance to become special."