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Baranek: Beecher softball player Savannah Soppet a hidden gem

Savannah Soppet Beecher. | Tony Baranek~Sun-Times Media

Savannah Soppet, of Beecher. | Tony Baranek~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 22, 2013 6:16AM



Beecher senior Savannah Soppet just loves to surprise people with her multiple softball abilities as a pitcher, shortstop, third baseman and hitter.

“Beecher is a really small school compared to Sandburg, where they expect that out of their players,” she said. “They don’t expect it from here — which is a good thing.”

There is one thing some opposing teams do expect, however. And it’s a worry.

“Because I’m a lefty, when I come to the plate they expect me to slap or bunt,” she said. “They say, ‘Come in, come in.’ And coach is like, ‘No, she’s not going to bunt. Don’t play in.’

“Some of them (first and third basemen) aren’t wearing facemasks and … ohhh, it would be horrible.”

Consider it a warning.

By this time, Soppet surprising anybody should be a bit of a surprise. She’s only been putting up big numbers from the first day she walked into Beecher.

As a freshman she hit .438. In her sophomore campaign she finished at .424 with 28 RBI.

But it was during the 2012 season when the 5-foot-7 junior really blossomed, hitting .482 with 16 doubles, six triples, five homers and 59 RBI. In addition, she finished with a 15-3 pitching record, using her fastball, riseball and changeup to record 163 strikeouts in 114 innings and a 1.70 ERA.

Through eight games in 2013, Soppet was 16-for-25, with six doubles and 14 RBI.

Ladycats coach Kevin Hayhurst considers her a hidden gem.

“I believe so,” he said. “A lot of people haven’t seen her play or heard about her because we’re sort of isolated in Beecher.

“Sometimes a player like that can be lost in the shuffle. But it’s good to see that the colleges have seen her and they know where some of the hidden players are playing at.”

The recruiting winner in this case was UIC, which signed Soppet to a scholarship in November.

It’s been quite a journey for a girl who didn’t even play competitive softball until the seventh grade.

Soppet’s early athletic success was on a gymnastics mat, where she reached Level 10 status at Gainers Gymnastics in South Chicago Heights before she encountered an unbeatable obstacle: growth.

“I shot up about six inches in one summer,” Soppet said. “I wound up with back issues, problems with my knees, everything. I just couldn’t take it anymore, and you know, you can’t really be a tall gymnast.”

Soppet turned her attention to softball and volleyball, both of which she decided to play at Beecher.

In volleyball she played on the JV team as a freshman and moved up to the varsity by the end of her sophomore season.

In softball, she was a varsity player from Day 1 and became a regular contributor on a young but strong 25-10 team.

Over the next two seasons Soppet’s numbers continued to improve — as did her ability to hit the ball with authority.

It wasn’t by chance.

“It was her dedication and commitment,” Hayhurst said. “The hard work she puts in during the offseason really sets her apart from the other kids. She’s gotten extremely strong (physically) from her freshman to senior year, and has really picked up on the mental aspects of the game.”

Soppet set the tone for a robust 2012 season when she drove in five runs and got the pitching win in the opener against Wilmington.

A couple of weeks later she had a big hit in a dramatic seventh-inning rally against Herscher.

She also performed well against the bigger schools. In a doubleheader against Elmwood Park (which would qualify for the Class 3A Elite Eight) she threw a no-hitter in one game and hit a home run in the other. Against Class 4A Oak Lawn, she stroked a grand slam and struck out seven. She shut down Class 3A Morris, striking out 12 and going 3-for-4.

Soppet went on to be the River Valley Conference Player of the Year in leading the Ladycats to their 11th consecutive title and an overall record of 29-6.

Amazingly, all of that didn’t get her where she initially wanted to be during the summer.

“I was actually told that I wasn’t good enough to be on the Orland A’s,” Soppet said, smiling. “I tried out for the team and they were like, ‘Ehhh.’ And I said, ‘OK, you don’t really want me. I’ll go somewhere else.’

“My dad (Scott Soppet) was looking on a website and saw that the Munster Magic needed a player. Then when we played (the A’s) and beat them … that was pretty nice.”

Soppet, who has a 4.3 GPA, is a member of National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society. She has qualified for Honors College at UIC, and has her sights set on a career in medicine.

Softball-wise, Hayhurst sees Beecher’s hidden gem ready to shine on a big stage.

“I don’t know where she’ll project in college because she can play several positions,” he said. “I do think she can step in and contribute right away.

“She’ll be a surprise for them as well.”



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