That Stevenson High School pitching coach sure looked familiar. Wait a minute, it was the former superstar pitcher Elissa Wisniewski.
The new girls softball coach brings quite the resume with her to her former rival.
Former Stevenson star pitcher is the Illinois High School Association's
- Four 20-win seasons at Stevenson.
- Most wins in state history (big schools) with 99.
- Fifth in state history with strikeouts (1,019).
- A 0.49 ERA ranks fourth in state history.
- 49 shutouts is third in Illinois history.
- And of the 3,005 batters she faced in four years, she never allowed a a single home run.
Of course she was a great pitcher but can she rescue the Libertyville softball team? In the last decade the program has struggled.
"I don't know the history,'' Wisniewski said. "We need to get down to basics. I like the Libertyville community. I like that it's a one community high school."
Mentality of Pitching
One thing Wisniewski can help right away with is pitching. This woman knows pitching.
"I need to teach the mental part of pitching,'' she said. "How to pick a part a hitter. How to set up pitches. We are going to have to build pitchers from the lower levels."
Wisniewski doesn't plan on calling pitches if she can help it.
"As a freshman, I would like to see them pounding the strike zone,'' she said. "My goal is for the pitcher and catcher to be calling their own game. As a former pitcher, I know my coaches didn't know what was working for me."
From Baseball to Softball
Take note Libertyville softball players, Wisniewski began playing softball at an early age. Actually it was baseball.
"I was a really a scrawny and short kid,'' she said. "And they stuck me in the outfield."
With little action in the outfield, Wisniewski came up with another plan.
"One day, I decided I wanted to be a pitcher,'' she said. "By fourth grade, I was pitching consistently. And then I took lessons."
By the time high school arrived, she was ready for the varsity as a freshman.
"In my second game, I threw a shutout against St. Viator,'' she said.
Late Night Game
The year was 1999. And the Stevenson Patriots qualified for a spot in the Elite Eight in DeKalb. And on this day, the clouds opened up and it rained and rained and rained some more.
The game with Lockport was delayed. Stevenson's 22-game winner Wisniewski would have to wait to pitch.
"I think we started the game right before midnight,'' she said. "I felt I was pitching at 4 p.m. The adrenaline was so high."
And her no-hitter disappeared on the first pitch at the state tournament. Wisniewski's first pitch was ripped for a double. And then she got some help from her defense. Freshman shortstop Ashley Kearney fired a strike to third and tossed out the runner.
This state game officially ended at 1:31 a.m. Stevenson fell 2-0.
Despite having a pitcher who won a state record of 99 games, the Pats never again reached the state tournament.
More Wins at College
"We had some great players,'' she said. "And they worked all four years to be like that. I remember we lost to Fremd by a run in a super-sectional. And I was on deck when the game ended."
At Winona State in Minnesota, Wisniewski won 60 more games.
"I had never heard of Winona State,'' she said. "They saw me pitch in summer travel ball. I loved the town."
Wisniewski later earned a degree in business administration. She now works for Pactiv, a food packaging firm in Lake Forest.