The top 15 high school softball players in the Peoria area for 2022

Illini Bluffs pitcher Kierston McCoy winds up for a pitch against Orangeville during their Class 1A softball state semifinal Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria.
Adam Duvall
Journal Star

Softball practice began across the state on Monday.

Two weeks later on March 14, games can start with the Illinois High School Association postseason play taking place on May 16. Louisville Slugger Sports Complex will host the state finals for the second year, bringing in the small schools on June 3-4 and ending the season on June 10-11 with the large schools.

The Journal Star's Adam Duvall takes a look at the top Peoria-area softball players — all returning all-area honorees — to watch for the 2022 season, in alphabetical order:

Emily Compton, East Peoria

Compton was named Class 3A Illinois Coaches Association third-team all-state and an all-Mid-Illini Conference second-team selection. As a designated hitter last season, the junior hit .400 with four doubles and eight homers with 28 RBIs and 16 runs. 

Bri Despines, East Peoria 

The Kent State signee collected 3A ICA first-team all-state and unanimous all-Mid-Illini first-team honors. Despines hit .469 with eight doubles, five triples and five homers with 22 RBIs. The senior catcher added 34 runs with nine stolen bases for EP. 

Danika Frazier, Olympia 

The sophomore pitcher was 14-2 with 144 strikeouts and a 1.28 ERA in 92.2 innings. Frazier hit .394 with 11 homers with 43 RBIs and 17 runs. She was named Class 2A ICA second-team all-state and all-Illini Prairie Conference second-team. 

More:Meet the 2021 Central Illinois High School Sports Awards softball all-stars

Kristen Graham, Illini Bluffs 

The Class 1A state title game hero hit .436 with five doubles, three triples and six homers with 25 RBIs and seven runs for the Tigers. The senior catcher was a 1A ICA third-team all-stater and a unanimous all-Tomahawk Conference first-team selection. 

Illini Bluff batter Kristen Graham watches the ball leave the infield for a walk-off game-winning hit against Effingham St. Anthony in the eighth inning of the Class 1A softball state title game Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria. The Tigers won 3-2.

Bailey Herrick, Washington 

Herrick was 3A ICA third-team all-state and an all-Mid-Illini second-team selection. The sophomore designated hitter/pitcher hit .358 with five doubles and nine homers with 35 RBIs and 23 runs and went 6-3 with 52 strikeouts and a 2.08 in 70.2 innings. 

Lexie Knowles, Canton 

The Little Giants senior second baseman hit .450 with four doubles and two homers with 18 RBIs and 19 runs. Knowles, a Judson University commit, was a 3A ICA third-team all-state pick and an all-Mid-Illini Conference selection.

Gracie Luna, East Peoria 

The Southeast Missouri State University commit hit .530 with nine doubles and eight homers with 37 RBIs and 30 runs. Luna, a junior shortstop, was a 3A ICA second-team all-stater and a unanimous all-Mid-Illini Conference first-team pick. 

Kierston McCoy, Illini Bluffs 

The senior pitcher was 17-1 with 137 strikeouts and a 1.02 ERA in 102.2 innings for 1A state champs. McCoy, a Bradley University recruit, hit .483 with 25 RBIs and 18 runs. She's 1A ICA second-team all-stater and a unanimous all-Tomahawk Conference pick. 

Macy Mikulich, Lewistown

Mikulich was a 1A ICA second-team all-state pick and a unanimous all-Prairieland Conference first-teamer. The senior shortstop hit .482 with seven doubles, three triples, four homers with 16 RBIs and 19 runs.  

Madison Nelson, ROWVA/Williamsfield 

This 1A ICA first-team all-stater was a big reason for the Cougars making an appearance in the 1A Elite Eight. The sophomore first baseman hit .455 with seven doubles and two homers with 20 RBIs and 15 runs. 

Kiersten Osborne, East Peoria 

The senior pitcher was 17-4 with 171 strikeouts and a 2.46 ERA in 119.1 innings. Osborne hit .292 with four doubles with four RBIs and six runs. She garnered a unanimous all-Mid-Illini Conference first-team selection. 

More:Illini Bluffs wins extra-inning battle to earn Class 1A softball state championship

Kayla Pacha, Metamora 

The Parkland College volleyball recruit was an all-Mid-Illini Conference first-team selection. The senior outfielder hit .381 with four doubles, one triple and a single-season school record 10 homers with 42 RBIs and 23 runs.  

Katie Petran, Illinois Valley Central 

Last season, the junior pitcher went 10-7 with 190 strikeouts and a 2.18 ERA in 122 innings. The Butler commit  hit .386 with four doubles, two triples, four homers with seven RBIs and 29 runs an all-Illini Prairie Conference honorable mention selection. 

IVC pitcher Katie Petran slings the ball as a Tremont baserunner comes off the base during their Class 2A Softball Regional title game Friday, June 4, 2021 in Tremont.

Katy Ramage, Metamora 

The Northern Illinois University commit hit .507 with 10 doubles and three homers with 20 RBIs, 30 runs and 14 stolen bases. Ramage, a junior outfielder, was an all-Mid-Illini Conference first-team selection. 

More:NBA's Shaun Livingston leads Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame class for 2021

Carly Vaughn, Washington 

As the Panthers first baseman, the junior hit .389 with six doubles and seven homers with 30 RBIs and 18 runs with five stolen bases. Vaughn was a 3A ICA third-team all-state pick and picked up all-Mid-Illini Conference second-team honors. 

Jaiden Walters, Canton 

Walter was named a 3A ICA second-team all-stater along with an all-Mid-Illini Conference first-team selection. The junior outfielder hit .465 with five RBIs, 21 runs and five stolen bases for the Little Giants, who won a 3A regional.  

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports writer. Email him at aduvall@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.