LOWELL | Pete Iussig heard a noise last summer. He looked out the window and saw nothing. No car. No tractor. No cows.
Bewildered, his search light stayed on.
The Lowell softball coach, though, kept hearing the sound. Confused, he started walking around his property. The outbuilding on his rural estate, known to decades of Red Devils softball players as "The Hitting Barn," had a sound like a line drive into the gap bouncing from the inside.
Swoosh. Crack. Swooosh. Crack. Swoooooosh.
Often the Red Devils players would come into "The Barn" to hit, in pairs or quads. But Lowell junior Alyssa Pokropinski was there alone, putting a ball on hitting tee, going through her swing, picking up the ball solo and going through the motion again. And again. And again.
She did it several times a week, for at least an hour at a time, throughout the summer.
"I went as often as I could," Pokropinski said. "I was really hungry for this season to start. I knew I had to get better. I had a lot of desire to improve."
Last summer Pokropinski's travel team broke up and she did not get picked up by anyone else. Not playing under the summer sun drove her crazy.
Plus, a poor high school season last spring was made worse by a stomach ailment that sapped the strength out of the first basemen when Lowell was upset by Morton in the sectional.
"Not playing last summer, I was really jacked for this high school season," Pokropinski said. "We had potential last year but we weren't very good."
That has all changed after last year's 10-win season. Lowell is 5-1 with wins against Lake Central and Andrean so far.
Pokropinski is 8-of-19 (.421) with two doubles, one home run, four RBIs and a .684 slugging percentage.
"I've said this for years," Iussig said. "You've got to have drool dripping off your chin every time you get to bat. You have to want it that bad. Alyssa does have drool dripping down her chin.
"She is really dedicated to being a great hitter."