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Zoe Kinsella takes over as head of Libertyville

Libertyville’s Zoe Kinsella was a quick study on the softball field.

When she was 5 years old, her older sister Caeli’s 10U travel team needed a player for their last game of the tournament.

“That’s how it all started for me,” Kinsella said. “I remember going out to bat and being ready to swing. I think I even made it to the base.

Her father, Lake Forest College softball coach Joe Kinsella, remembers that moment more vividly.

“Zoe had been playing T-ball the weekend before, and that softball game was her first time playing,” he said. “There were so many of them around him. She went there and was expecting improvement from day one.

“He jumped out of his shoes on the first three pitches he saw. He was 0 for 1 with a walk and a stolen base.

Zoe Kinsella hasn’t stopped pitching since then, and the young defender is one of the Wildcats’ best returning players this season. She hit .368 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs last year despite missing six games.

Kinsella, a three-year starter, will have to carry a heavier load following the departure of the young standout Adriana Callahan, a Stanford commit, and Makayla Boone. Callahan, a Class 4A first-team all-state selection last season, transferred out of state. Boone, a third-team all-state team, chose not to play softball this season.

“It was tough losing four seniors when last season ended,” Kinsella said. “They were also my best friends. They took me in when I was a freshman. I knew it was going to be hard to get through this season after Adriana and Makayla broke up. I was really close to Adriana and Makayla.

“We’ve got some new talent, but we need to figure out where everything fits. We’re not sure exactly what it’s going to look like, but I’m excited for the season.”

Libertyville’s Zoe Kinsella throws the ball to first base during the game against Antioch at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. (Brian O’Mahoney/News-Sun)

Kinsella, who moved from first base to shortstop to stabilize the field, was an honorable mention honoree in the North Suburban Conference last year. Libertyville coach Sean Ferrell said he is the ideal player to lead his program.

“Zoe has a lot of advantages,” Ferrell said. “He is an exemplary leader. He hasn’t left the field for two years. He’s very good defensively, probably a Division I first baseman, but we need him at shortstop. After being successful in cleaning for the last two years, he will place 3rd in our ranking. He has a lot of power.

“He does everything 100%. He is committed to our off-season lifting efforts. I expect him to have a really big season. We will rely on him for leadership.”

It’s no surprise that Kinsella says her softball career was defined by her work with her father. Being able to ask him for advice, go to batting cages and be surrounded by college coaches and players made a difference she said.

Kinsella actually played his first game at Lake Forest College in the Wildcats’ 15-1 loss on Wednesday. 2023 Class 3A state runner-up Antioch. His father could not attend the game because his team was in Florida.

“I grew up at Lake Forest College,” Kinsella said. “It’s always been a part of my life, an important part of my life. It’s a special place for me. “After years of paying tribute to my father’s players, watching countless hours of practice and countless games, playing on the Lake Forest field is something I’ve always dreamed of.”

Libertyville's Zoe Kinsella (14) throws a pitch but is too late to catch Antioch's Samanth Hillner (20) at 2nd base in the 2nd inning of the game on Wednesday, March 13, 2024.  Antakya won the match 15-1 after 5 shots.  .  (Brian O'Mahoney for News-Sun)
Libertyville’s Zoe Kinsella (14) throws as Antioch’s Sam Hillner (20) slides to second base during a game at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. (Brian O’Mahoney/News-Sun)

Kinsella said having a parent who has been a college coach for nearly 25 years is a disadvantage.

“I feel like I have to prove myself more,” he said. “When I have success, it seems like (people) give it all to my dad. This is hard for me.”

However, Joe Kinsella said Zoe’s hard work, determination and love for the game were the main reasons for her success.

“As one of five children, Zoe’s development as a player is entirely due to her,” said Joe Kinsella. “Of course, this was partly inspired by her sister and the women she had the opportunity to be around. People want to trust me, but she’s worked hard and been a great teammate.”

Bobby Narang is a freelance reporter.

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