In high school softball, 12 home runs in a career is a solid number for most players. But former Benet Academy catcher Stephanie Abello was not like most players. For this Redwing backstop, 12 was the fewest number of home runs hit in a single season over her four year varsity career. When all was said and done, Stephanie Abello hit an Illinois state record 60 home runs in her career. Head Coach Jerry Schilf knew right from the start that he had an elite hitter on his hands, “Stephanie’s a special individual. We’ve had some very good ball players over the years but not too many that are comparable to Stephanie. The bat speed that she produces is just…I’ve had a lot of powerful kids but she just had that bat speed. And she would drive the ball into the wind 250 to 275 feet and it was just like, how did that happen.”
13 home runs as a freshman, 12 as a sophomore, 22 as a junior and 13 more to help shatter the record of 54 as a senior in 2015. Stephanie’s success on the diamond helped lead a high powered Redwing offense to a regional championship in 2013 and first team all state selections in 2013 and 2014. The 22 home runs as a junior is also the 3rd best single season number in IHSA history. But it wasn’t just her eye popping statistics that made Stephanie Abello a special player.
“It all comes down to all the work ethic she put into it. She constantly was working at it, she’d be out there working on a tee all by herself. She had lofty goals”, says Schilf.
One of those goals was to play at the college. And it’s no surprise that power numbers like Stephanie’s would draw the attention of division I programs. After graduating in 2015, Abello joined newly hired softball coach Tyra Perry’s inaugural recruiting class at the University of Illinois and the decision has paid off for all parties involved.
Illinois softball has won 36 or more games in coach Perry’s first three seasons, qualifying for the NCAA tournament in 2016 and 2017. After seeing partial time as a freshman, Abello broke out as a sophomore in 2017, starting 56 games behind the plate and hitting 13 home runs to go along with 44 rbi and a .307 batting average.
The upward trend continued as a junior as the average jumped to .353 and a team high .476 on base percentage. Her post-season accolades include a 2nd team All Big ten selection and being named a Midwest region first team member.
Currently, Abello and the fighting Illini are ranked in the top 25 as the Benet alum hopes to end her collegiate career with a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Her former coach knows that all the hard work has set Stephanie and her Illini teammates up for a season full of success.
“But they continue to get better and now they’re in a situation where maybe she plays in the college world series. They’ll definitely make the NCAA tournament the way they are playing in a tough Big Ten conference. But maybe she’ll make it to the College World Series. I think that would be the icing on the cake for her to make it. But again it’s not all about her, it’s about the team and the friends she’s developed.”
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