It takes a Fox to lead the Foxes. Sophomore pitcher Ellie Fox for Yorkville, that is. ‘I’ve been working on it.’

Welcome to the spotlight.

Sophomore right-hander Ellie Fox understood the demands of the role she was taking on this season as one of three pitchers sharing the starter’s role for Yorkville, which last spring was led to a second-place finish in the state in Class 4A by 2023 graduate Madi Reeves.

Fox, senior Sarah Carlson and junior Peyton Levine have big shoes to fill succeeding Reeves, who has a 20-3 record in the midst of a standout freshman season for Miami of Ohio.

Even so, Fox didn’t want to be overwhelmed by the glare.

“One thing I’ve got to work on is my confidence,” she said. ”Last year, I didn’t get to pitch that much on varsity. I struggled beginning this season — it wasn’t my best performance.

“I realized I had to put that out of my head. I am my own person, and thinking about someone else is just going to destroy my confidence. I couldn’t let that happen. I’ve been working on it.”

Judging by her performance Monday, Fox’s confidence is just fine. She fired a three-hit shutout for the Foxes in a 10-0 Southwest Prairie Conference victory over visiting West Aurora.

Fox struck out five and walked one for Yorkville (14-10, 7-3). She didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning, when senior outfielder Mia Malczyk delivered a one-out single for West Aurora (11-12, 6-5).

Senior catcher Mackenzie Fraus singled later in the inning, but junior right fielder Sierra Morse threw a strike to sophomore catcher Kayla Kersting. It retired Malczyk trying to score from second.

Junior shortstop Sara Tarr, a Miami of Ohio recruit, also doubled in the sixth for the Blackhawks. Kersting and Carlson had two hits and two RBIs apiece to pace Yorkville’s offense.

“He liked the outside corner,” Kersting said of the umpire. “So we were doing curveballs, probably one of her best pitches, and mixing in a change-up. Those keep batters honest. You really want to work that change-up.

“I’ve caught Ellie since I’ve been 6 years old. Now, being on varsity and catching her, it’s kind of ironic, I guess. We’re just having fun out there like when we were kids.”

Fox improved her record to 6-6. She has 71 strikeouts, having allowed 67 hits and 26 walks in 65 innings. She lowered her ERA to 2.70.

“She’s been going up against some really tough competition that has challenged her,” Yorkville coach Jory Regnier said. “That’s good because it’s helped her grow and mature.

“Varsity pitching is so different than JV. The batters are a little more intelligent about their at-bats and what’s going on. In any sense of it, being ready for varsity takes some time.”

Fox’s repertoire includes a rise and drop in addition to the change and curve.

“She’s got a good mix — it’s just a matter of what’s on,” Regnier said. “Day by day, we try to figure out what’s working and then we kind of play into the umpire’s hand a little bit.

“If they’re giving something, we’re going to take advantage of that, too. She’ll keep hammering whatever we’re calling. She has some good pop, too.”

The change-up may be the key.

“I think people have trouble adjusting, even fouling off her change-up sometime,” Regnier said. “They get so far off their front foot, they just fly out, if they do make contact. It’s really great because it’s such a good setup pitch.”

Fox is also contributing at the plate and in left field when she doesn’t pitch. She’s settled into the cleanup spot, batting .407 with three home runs and 15 RBIs.

“I need to focus on being consistent with both my hitting and pitching,” Fox said. “It’s always been pitching for me. I never played the outfield until high school last year for JV. I feel like I’m decent out there. I get the job done.”

A challenging stretch of four straight games this week includes dates with the conference’s top two teams in Minooka and Oswego.

“We have some girls who will take some innings,” Regnier said. “I think we’ll figure out who’s going to be in that starting spot when we get to the regional.”