CALUMET TWP. | When Misty Alvarado steps into the hitting cage, people nervously take notice. They duck behind things for safety.
Really, they run for the hills.
"I'm scared for my life when I'm feeding the machine," Calumet coach Ryan Vondrak said.
Through eight games this season, Alvarado's hitting numbers are just insane. She is 19-for-30 for a .633 average. She has 23 RBIs and has scored 17 runs.
Meanwhile Calumet is off to its first 8-0 start in school history. The Warriors have outscored their opponents 122-4. Alvarado, in four years, has never missed an inning of play.
Not once. Never.
"Softball is my life," Alvarado said. "I started playing when I was 4. It's always been natural for me, I guess."
On Tuesday, Calumet traveled to Whiting and beat the Oilers 5-1. It was the first time in recorded history that Calumet had beaten the Class A power.
"The kids have worked very hard preparing for this season," Vondrak said. "They knew they had a chance to be good. They wanted to take it to a level that we've never been before."
Last year Calumet won 18 games but was pretty handily by the power programs on its schedule -- Wheeler, Whiting and Bishop Noll. With the win over the Oilers, though, it seems that there might be a sea change in Calumet Twp.
"When we played those teams last year we knew we were a little below them," Alvarado said. "We were intimidated when we played Wheeler. We didn't have the confidence.
"We do now."
Alvarado is being looked at by several college coaches. In recent a game against Bloom at Prairie State College, with scouts in the stands, the left-handed slugger hit the fence in her first two at-bats.
And her game has exploded without ever completing a full year of summer travel softball. This is the norm for most of the Calumet players.
Family is important to Alvarado. Her father coached her when she was young in the Longfellow Little League, while her mother videotaped every moment of every game.
She said her brother, Michael, has been an inspiration to her all of her life. He played baseball at Calumet, graduating in 2006.
"I went to all if his games and was always around it," Alvarado said. "I spent all of my time on the softball field. This team is like a family. I've never been on this type of team."