Eye on POY: Illinois softball

The window on the Gatorade State Softball Player of the Year race is closing, and the search for elite student-athletes is in full swing. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our ESPNHS team that administers the program’s selection process.

Brianna LeBeau

Senior right-handed pitcher/infielder, Richards (Oak Lawn, Ill.)

2012 Team record: 30-5 (Class 4A)

2012 Team standing: Lost Class 4A sectional semis to Mother McAuley (Chicago, Ill.), 8-0

2012 Batting average: .591

2012 RBI: 41

2012 Runs: 48

2012 W-L record: 21-5

2012 ERA: 0.88

2012 Strikeouts: 158

Academics: A average

Collegiate destination: Northwestern University

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Produced a .989 slugging percentage and .658 on-base percentage. Belted 23 doubles, four triples and two home runs. Stole 22 bases. Recorded nine shutouts in the circle. 2010-11 Gatorade Illinois Softball Player of the Year. 2011 Chicago Tribune Female Athlete of the Year. 2011 First Team All-State selection as named by the Illinois Coaches Association. Three-time South Suburban Conference Player of the Year.

Maeve McGuire

Junior centerfielder, Benet Academy (Lisle, Ill.)

2012 Team record: 32-5 (Class 4A)

2012 Team standing: Lost Class 4A regional final to Neuqua Valley (Naperville, Ill.), 1-0

2012 Batting average: .587

2012 RBI: 42

2012 Runs: 62

Academics: B average

Collegiate destination: University of Georgia (verbal)

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Produced a 1.231 slugging percentage and .661 on-base percentage through 33 games. Amassed 23 doubles, 14 home runs and one triple. 2011 Player of the Year as named by the Naperville Sun, Daily Herald and Chicago Sun-Times. 2011 Chicago Sun-Times All-State selection.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Softball Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2011-12 campaign.

Lilly Fecho: Senior left-handed pitcher, Glenbard North (Carol Stream, Ill.)

Dani Goranson: Senior pitcher, Elk Grove (Elk Grove Village, Ill.)

Kylie Johnson: Senior outfielder, Kankakee (Ill.)

Emily Naegele: Senior catcher, Oak Forest (Ill.)

Abby Ramirez: Junior shortstop, Trinity (River Forest, Ill.)

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State Player of the Year candidate in your state? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com.