CRETE | Sarah Crews has been playing varsity softball for four years at Beecher High School, and Monday against Illinois Lutheran she very nearly notched a first.
The pitcher has never thrown a no-hitter. In the first of two games at Heritage Park, however, she entered the last inning against Beecher's River Valley Conference foe without a Chargers hitter reaching base.
Then, leading off the bottom of the fifth, her team trailing 26-0, Caroline Kuether spoiled the perfecto by drilling a two-strike change-up over the left fielder's head for a double. Crews then struck out the side — giving her 13 strikeouts among Lutheran's 15 outs — to seal the win. Times No. 1 Beecher took the nightcap as well, 12-0, to improve to 5-4 overall and 4-0 in the River Valley Conference, while Illinois Lutheran fell to 1-5 and 0-3 respectively.
"I was not aware I had a no-hitter (entering the fifth)," Crews said. "I was just throwing the ball, hitting the corners, mixing change-ups in."
Another potential first for Crews was never really at issue. The Bobcats haven't lost in the conference during her four years of high school, and in fact have lost just two River Valley games in coach Kevin Hayhurst's 11 seasons.
Beecher's dominance in conference play sometimes makes transitioning from its notoriously difficult nonconference schedule a tricky thing.
"You have to work on still playing at the same level, on your mechanics, on doing everything right," Crews said of the team's approach to conference games. "You don't ever want to do things wrong."
Beecher jumped on the Chargers for 17 runs in the second inning of the opener. The Bobcats had 14 hits in the frame, five players with two each. Kaitlyn Ranger, did the most damage, scoring three times and driving in three runs with a walk, a double and a single, while Emily Landis and Isabella Woolslayer also had three RBIs each in the inning.
In the second game, Hyn nicked Beecher's freshman starter, Chloe Schamber, for a base hit in the third, and Kuether added another in the fourth off freshman reliever Carson Solis.
It was enough for first-year head coach Vince Schrementi to remain optimistic about a squad that won just three games last season.
"I feel really good about winning more games than three," he said. "I just tell the girls, 'Keep the faith. We're going to do good.'
"During the first game, I saw some long faces. But in the second game, we did better."
In Game 2, 12 players each had one hit for the Bobcats.
Taylor Johnson had an RBI triple in the first, later scoring, leaving her with a 3-for-3 day, three runs and three RBIs. Crews singled and scored, ending up 4-for-6 with 2 RBIs and 5 runs. In both games, Riley Bowler had RBI doubles to end the scoring.
"I'm looking forward to watching this team progress," Hayhurst said. "There's a lot of competition within the team. I think we've got some really good players here."