DUPO — With a starting lineup of almost all freshmen and sophomores, the future looks extremely bright for the Dupo Tigers.
But, coach Greg Pennock isn't looking past the present.
"Sometimes being young is really good,'' Pennock said. "They don't know any different. Maybe when they shouldn't be able to do something, they do it anyway. Sometimes that lack of experience works on the positive side.''
The Tigers (26-6), seeking their first regional title since 2009 when they placed fourth in the state in Class 1A under coach Mandy Evers, are the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A Hillsboro Sectional.
"We're going to try and take care of business,'' Pennock said. "We're going to try to win a regional. We haven't done that in a long time.''
The Tigers were dealt a major break when they were sent north rather than being placed in the Red Bud Regional with Nashville and Gibault.
The Tigers haven't had a lot of pitching depth in recent years as they've been forced to convert position players into pitchers.
They were 9-14 last year with catcher Rachael Donald serving as the team's primary pitcher.
"It's not much fun when your catcher is pitching,'' Pennock said.
That all changed with the arrival of freshman pitcher Megan Brown this year.
Brown, who has a 24-4 record with a 1.35 ERA, has shown poise on the mound beyond her years.
"When she's on, she's pretty tough,'' Pennock said of Brown, who has struck out 243 batters in 161 1/3 innings of work. "She's a strong pitcher. She works a lot of innings, and she doesn't like to lose. She doesn't know what quit means, which is good. She doesn't get rattled.''
Rachael Donald, a sophomore, is among the top hitters in the metro-east with a .535 batting average. She has 20 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 46 RBIs.
Donald's older sister, Jennifer, was one of the key members of that Tigers' squad that placed fourth in state in 2009.
"Rachael is a lot like Jennifer in terms of strength,'' Pennock said. "Now Rachael has played at a higher level in the summers with more competitive teams than Jennifer did, and obviously it shows up.
"Rachael is crazy strong. She hits ground balls that even when she doesn't get it all or get it really good, she just murders it. It's coming through the infield so hard that what might be a two-hopper that the shortstop gets for another kid, it's in the outfield. Her and Megan both have hit groundballs that have gone to the fence. I mean groundballs all the way through the infield and the outfielders can't get to them because they are hit so hard.''
Brown is second on the team in hitting with a .505 batting average. She has 12 doubles, three triples, two homers and 33 RBIs.
"On Monday's game (against Red Bud), I saw Megan hit the ball up the middle and I was moving over to tell a kid to come out because we get to courtesy run for her,'' Pennock said. "And, I didn't see that the center fielder didn't get to it. It went all the way to the fence and she comes sliding into third and I'm like surprised.''
The Tigers have five more players with more than 20 at-bats hitting over .300. Sophomore Caitlin Brizzi is hitting .421 with 27 runs scored, sophomore Ambers Mobbs is hitting .400 with 29 runs scored, freshman Skylure Barlow is hitting .396 with 19 RBIs, sophomore Alyssa Strubberg is hitting .389 with a team-leading 35 runs scored and freshman Tayor Esmon is hitting .379 with 17 RBIs.
With so many underclassman, it's easy to see why the Tigers should be a force among small-school squads for the next three years.
"We're going to have some growing pains, and hopefully they all stick with it, but we're excited about it,'' Pennock said.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.