CEDAR LAKE | Larry McMillen has a Monday-night softball clinic during the winter for the kids in Cedar Lake. It is a small way to help build his Hanover Central softball program.
A coach hurried up and told McMillen of a coming crises: A fifth-grader was running around with cleats on.
"I asked her if she knew she was running around on a million dollar floor in cleats," McMillen said of Ashley Yoways, his sophomore pitcher these days. "I asked her if she had some tennis shoes.
"She just said with a smile, 'I didn't know.'"
Yoways has kind of come out of nowhere in her two years at Hanover. Last year the 'Cats began the year 2-7, with Yoways in the circle. There wasn't a line buying tickets to watch them play.
But youth grew and Hanover shocked everyone by winning the Class 2A sectional title.
"We weren't very good when we started," Yoways said of last year. "But we kept working, kept trying, and as the season went on we started getting a lot of confidence.
"We couldn't wait for this year to begin."
Of course, you know, there was a problem. Yoways went to play in an indoor tournament in February. The last thing McMillen told her was "Don't get hurt."
So when she walked into school the following Monday on crutches, he only had one thing to say.
"You might as well break the other one, too."
Tendonitis caused Hanover's ace to miss all of last summer's travel season.
Then during indoors Yoways slid into third and got stepped on. A broken foot, and several other injuries and issues with teammates, slowed some of the excitement for this season.
But after a 5-0 win against Lowell on Wednesday, where Yoways whiffed 10, the Wildcats had won four consecutive games and Yoways' numbers were incredible.
She was batting .550 with two home runs, 10 RBIs and 12 runs scored. Not bad for a leadoff hitter.
"Ashley was pretty good last year, but we weren't," McMillen said after the Lowell win. "We committed about eight errors a game early in the year. She's getting good defense behind her this year and that's made a big difference."
Yoways is a 3.5 student and just "a great kid," McMillen said. But there is an issue. She likes to have too much fun at practice.
"I tell these guys to stop clowning around every day," he said.
Yoways just laughed when that subject came up. She talked about a practice where McMillen spent, "all day," Yoways said, trying to hit the baseball dugout with a fly ball at the school's new field.
She laughed when she said he never did hit the dugout.
"I love our team," Yoways said. "We all get along great. I think we're the funnest team around. No, I know we are."