PEORIA — Hits for the Cure provides Emma Crowley with a glimpse into her future.

The Notre Dame junior aspires one day to be a pediatric oncologist, helping research and treat children with cancer. Crowley gets a first-hand interaction with those young cancer patients during an annual visit to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with her Irish teammates.

“Going in there and seeing like what I’d end up (working) with, it’s kind of exciting to me but at the same time it’s kind of sad and humbling,” she said. “There’s never been any kids complaining. They’re always so happy and they always want to play with us.”

Play opens on Friday and continues Saturday for the third year of the Hits for the Cure softball event at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex. Founder and cancer survivor Chloe Petersen, a Notre Dame grad and former two-time JS All-Area first baseman, began the event in 2014 to raise money in order to fight for an end to childhood cancer.

She spent almost the first six years of her life at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with a Wilms’ tumor, a malignant, cancer-causing tumor found in the kidney.

Notre Dame, Illinois Valley Central, Brimfield/Elmwood, Lewistown, Morton, Farmington and Peoria Christian are seven of the 11 teams from around the state participating in the 13-game event. Off the diamond at Hits for the Cure there will be a ball toss competition, bake sale, 50/50 raffle, auction and T-shirt sales.

“Overall, it continues to grow some,” Notre Dame coach Ed Olehy said. “We’re bringing some good teams in and some people we normally don’t get to see.”

Non-area ranked teams appearing at Hits for the Cure include Class 3A No. 3 Sterling along with Class 2A ranked squads in No. 13 Alton Marquette and No. 19 Bloomington Central Catholic. Perennial power Quincy Notre Dame rounds out the 11-team field.

One big change for the future of Hits for the Cure is moving it up from the last weekend in April. Prom seems to be the biggest schedule obstacle, especially with teams from outside of central Illinois.

Utilizing the LSSC dome and outdoor turf fields will help facilitate changing Hits for the Cure to the opening weekend of the season. A team like 2017 3A state champ Marengo had to drop out due to their spring formal falling on Saturday.

“We’re going to guarantee the games,” Olehy said. “We’ll either play them inside or outside, so that way we can get some early games in.”

Elite players will also be on display over the next two days. Montana Ledbetter (Brimfield/Elmwood), Hanna Evans (IVC), Quinn Pallardy (ND), Sydney Shaeffer (Lewistown), Eden Bushnell (ND), Haley Wallace (B/E) and Crowley are just a few of the main talent attractions for Hits for the Cure.

Play begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday with six games and wraps up with seven games on Saturday, starting at 8 a.m.

By Adam Duvall can be reached at 686-3214 or Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall

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