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If the clouds would ever part and people would stop building arks, the Oak Creek softball team could show everyone exactly how good it is this spring.

The defending Southeast Conference champions are building around a host of returnees, including returning Now All-Suburban selections junior pitcher and first baseman Becca Oleniczak, senior shortstop Katie Mitchell and senior outfielder Haili Cota.

But coach Jeff Trask and his staff are largely going on impressions and feel right now, because the Knights have been scarcely able to get outside due to the incessant cold and rain.

He said the kids are showing more patience than he is.

"We like what we have, but since we haven't really been able to get outside, we don't know what we're bad at yet," he said. "The time or two we have tried (to get outside), we sort of forced it, the weather got worse and then we got out of there fast (laughs)."

The Knights recorded a 22-6 record last season in winning the league title, just one win off the school record, but suffered a disappointing loss in sectionals to conference rival Kenosha Bradford. Trask said this team is motivated to push forward once the weather does clear.

Experience will be on their side.

Aside from the aforementioned All-Suburban selections, other returnees include senior Peyton Strong, who will help out at first when Oleniczak is pitching, senior Selena Bento at second base, senior Tori Golden at third base, and outfielders junior Erin Posig, sophomore Sara Traxel and senior Brooke Lipinski. Lipinski is currently waiting to be cleared for full activity after off-season shoulder surgery.

Newcomers in the starting line-up include a trio of catchers, including freshman Jenna Trwyn, juniors Ashley Ristic and AJ Hecker, sophomore second baseman Emma Ray, and freshman outfielder Athena Binelas.

There is room for opportunity for others to help Oleniczak on the hill, said Trask. He's expected to get a lot of innings out of the likes of junior Jacee Salzer, senior Sam Reineck, Ray, and even Mitchell and Traxel.

"I want to keep Becca as fresh as possible for the big games at the end, so it's good that we have a cast of kids who can eat innings," Trask said. "These are kids who want to play, want to compete, if we can ever get the weather to cooperate."

An early season match-up with Bradford on April 4 was postponed. Oak Creek is tentatively scheduled to host Racine Park on Thursday, April 6, in another Southeast tilt and then will host rival Franklin at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11.

The Knights will build around an imposing and dangerous offense that hit .400 as a team last season, and averaged 8.8 runs a game, but Trask said the team is not going to get caught up worrying about what is expected of them.

""We won't think about it too hard," he said. "Expectations are nice but you've got to play the games and do the things that make us who we are. Hit the ball hard, pick it up, do all the little things."

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