Katie Keller's approach is simple at leadoff.
Get on base, and let Keller's Geneva teammates get her home.
"I try to do anything I can to get on," Keller said, "and my teammates will do whatever they can to get me in."
Lately, she's getting on base more frequently than even Keller realized.
Keller, a Northern Illinois recruit, has been slipped back into the leadoff spot in the last week and a half. Coincidence or not, the sweet-swinging lefty reached base safely in 17 straight plate appearances. During the streak that covered two games with St. Charles North, one against Batavia and one against Streamwood, Keller had eight hits, seven walks, was hit by a pitch once and reached on an error once.
Three games in it struck Geneva coach Greg Dierks that Keller hadn't been retired in a while.
"I didn't even realize it until coach Dierks told me about it in the hall at school," Keller said. "It's pretty sweet."
Pretty sweet, but shouldn't be that surprising.
Keller, who last year slugged a school record 12 homers, is batting .515 (32-for-62) going into this week with 22 runs scored, nine doubles, four triples, three homers and 25 runs batted in. Her recent streak might not be the most impressive, either.
Keller has reached base safety in 19 consecutive plate appearances against St. Charles North, hardly a slouch opponent, dating back to her sophomore year.
"I know the St. Charles North pitcher [Jillian Waslawski] pretty well," Keller said. "We played on the Wasco Diamonds together from 10U to 14U."
Keller doubled in two runs against North, and also hit a two-run homer for Geneva's only runs in a win over Batavia.
Keller bats third for her travel team, but has hit leadoff for Geneva in the past. Dierks moved Keller back to the leadoff spot in the last week to primarily combat the walk. She's been issued 18 walks this season, but she's hardly let the careful handling get to her head.
"She doesn't show any frustration when it happens," Dierks said. "I'm sure she is eager to hit. But the mentality of getting on base to help the team is there. She knows it's a sign of respect."
"I take it as a compliment," Keller said. "I know sometimes I'm not going to get many pitches. I'm looking for anything close to a strike. The first pitch I like, I want to hit that."
She doesn't mind being pitched around, when she has teammates like Ali Dierks to back her up.
"Ali has been totally on her game," Keller said. "If you want to walk me, go ahead, look who's behind me. They'll put it right back in your face."
Knights heating up
Kaneland appears to be heating up at the right time.
The Knights (18-7) have won seven straight games the last two weeks. Kaneland will have a tricky playoff opener May 23 against regional host Aurora Central Catholic, which has Loyola recruit Danielle Brown on the mound.
Speaking of tough playoff roads, how about the Class 4A Oswego Sectional? Four of the top 12 teams in the latest Illinois Coaches Association state-wide rankings – Plainfield North, Downers Grove South, Oswego East and Downers Grove North – are in the field at Oswego.
Geneva, the fifth seed, opens regional play May 23 at Downers Grove South against Yorkville – the same team that upset the Vikings in a regional final last year.
"I think for a while now this has been the toughest sectional in the state," coach Dierks said. "It's not just the top teams, either."