VALPARAISO — The scoreboard might have said that Boone Grove won the game, but coach Ron Saunders wasn't happy.
He wasn't thrilled with the execution in the Wolves' victory over Lowell on April 3. He was frustrated with fielding errors, base-running mistakes and the intensity.
Saunders shared his concerns in a team huddle after the game before giving way to Boone Grove seniors Kellie Marcheschi and Katelynn Downham, who added their own critiques. As the team meeting was winding down, another voice spoke up. Playing in just her second career varsity game, freshman catcher Kailyn Coates felt like she had a point to make.
"We needed to not get down on ourselves during the game and I felt like someone had to say that," Coates said.
As Coates spoke, it was as if all the frustration wiped off Saunders' face as he watched one of the eight freshmen on the varsity roster begin to hold her teammates accountable. By the time the team dispersed, Saunders was wearing a wide smile.
"You think I'm not happy about having her on my team for the next four years?" Saunders asked rhetorically.
Through 16 games, Coates was batting .481 with five home runs and 22 RBIs. She ranks second on the team to Marcheschi in all three offensive categories.
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"It means so much to finally be playing varsity for Boone Grove," Coates said. "I've been waiting for this moment and now I'm just trying to be a leader."
Coates has already emerged as a leader in her freshman class. The Wolves were shorthanded to start the season as several upperclassmen were volunteering with Natural Helpers, a national program that provides training to students who already assist their peers in an informal capacity.
Coates has grabbed a hold of her spot. While she's new to varsity this season, she's not new to the game. Coates has played travel ball with the New Lenox Lightning and she's spent time working with Marcheschi, Boone Grove's star pitcher who will be playing at Western Illinois next season.
"I look up to Kellie a lot like a big sister," Coates said. "She's helped me grow a lot."
That growth was on display in early April and figures to continue to grow over the next three seasons.
"I want to learn from every game," Coates said.