Softball: ‘Ball of energy’ Puch helps helps Loyola nab regional crown
05/26/2012 Park Ridge Loyola starting pitcher Jamie Kiefer (12) fields a ground ball during the Class 4A Regional Championship game against Maine South on Saturday, May 26, 2012. Kiefer pitched 7 scoreless innings to defeat Maine South 3-0. | michael jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:08PM
Loyola may never see another player like Nina Puch.
The senior will depart as one of the rare three-sport athletes to ever walk the hallways, as she competed in golf, hockey and softball.
Puch helped the fourth-seeded Ramblers win a regional softball title with a 3-0 win over host Maine South on Saturday. In two regional games, she went 5-for-7 with five runs scored.
“She makes things happen,” said Loyola coach Marty Jennings, whose club improved to 22-7 and was scheduled to play top-seeded New Trier in the Niles West Sectional semifinals on Wednesday. “She’s a fiery kid who likes to be successful. She’s come a long way for us. She leads by example, and has an energy and enthusiasm for the game. Just a great kid to coach.”
Puch can’t hide her emotions, but she doesn’t try to, either. The center fielder plays with passion, and it shows.
“A lot of coaches say I wear my heart on my sleeve,” said the Des Plaines resident, who will play golf and hockey at Concordia. “I’m a ball of energy. I think my aggression in softball comes from hockey. I will do whatever it takes to win.”
Puch proved that in the playoff opener against Niles West. Even though she came into the postseason batting less under .300, she reached base in each at-bat and scored all three times.
It was the same thing against Maine South in the regional final. Puch collected two hits and scored two of the team’s three runs.
“I love playing in the playoffs,” she said. “The regular season is just practice. This is the time to shine. I was psyched to play.”
Jamie Kiefer also delivered last week. The sophomore pitcher struck out 22 in two games, earning both wins in the circle. Kiefer improved to 18-3 with 270 strikeouts in 161 2/3 innings.
“This is a team that pretty much came from nowhere to play pretty tough,” Jennings said.