BEECHER | When the Beecher softball team started the season by losing two of its first three games, Ladycats pitchers Savannah Soppet and Sarah Crews were not worried.
Soppet, a junior, was diplomatic about the slow start, as she saw the early season setbacks as a great opportunity to know what was working -- and what wasn't -- with this year's team. With a perspective that echoed her teammate, Crews said it was the losses that stick in her mind, while the victories sort of run together.
Victories certainly have run together for the Ladycats this year. After losing the first game of a home doubleheader to Moline to drop the team record to 1-2, the Bobcats went on a tear, winning 25 straight games, most by blowout margins.
"Last year, we had a lot of big hitters," said Soppet, a junior. "This year, we didn't expect the success we've had, and that has worked to our advantage."
The definition of big hitters is up for debate, based on the performance of Soppet and Crews at the plate this year. Soppet, a left-handed hitter, batted .494 with four home runs and 51 RBI in the Ladycats first 27 games this year. Crews, who hits behind Soppet in the clean-up role, has hit .500 with two home runs and 27 RBI.
"They both came to the team with a bottom-line attitude of wanting to get better," Beecher coach Kevin Hayhurst said. "They both stick around after two hours of practice and ask questions about how to improve. They want to know the intricacies of the game."
Their numbers from the mound have been even more impressive than what they've tallied at the plate. Crews, a sophomore, is 12-1 with a 1.04 ERA, while Soppet has thrown no-hitters against Grant Park and Elmwood Park as part of her 13-1 record, with an equally stingy ERA of 1.01.
Soppet, more of a spin pitcher, credited her rigorous summer league play in Beecher last year as a big reason for her success on the mound this season.
"I was the only pitcher on the team and sometimes I had to pitch five games a day," Soppet said. "It was tiring, but it built up my strength so that coming into this year I kind of hoped I'd throw better."
Crews and Soppet both attended Beecher games as middle school students, and fondly recall watching with a sense of awe the Ladycat team that eventually won state in 2007. Crews said this year's team is well aware of the pride the school and community take in the success of the softball team, which only fuels the girls to play better. Beecher has conference titles in each of Hayhurst's 11 seasons with the team.
"I remember watching them win a playoff game in 2006 or 2007 and thinking that someday, I will be like that," Crews said. "As players, we take playing softball here seriously. We know that not all of the people that come to our games are parents, and that makes us want to do our best."