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Baranek: Former Richards standout Brianna LeBeau making big impact for Northwestern softball

BriannLeBeau Northwestern | Supplied photo

Brianna LeBeau, of Northwestern | Supplied photo

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Updated: May 8, 2014 9:44AM



When you’re talking the caliber of players and people who the three sisters are, to say Brianna LeBeau is the best of the bunch is really a relative statement.

She, Amanda and Brittany LeBeau all left indelible, positive marks on Richards High School as both athletes and students.

But I will say those whispers in the spring of 2008 that, “This last one, Brianna, when she comes in to play softball she’s going to take it to another level,” weren’t off the mark.

Today, Brianna LeBeau is having an amazing spring as a sophomore at Northwestern. Through Thursday, she was hitting .359, with 22 RBI and a team-leading six home runs for the Wildcats (20-8).

Last week she landed a prodigious blast at Rosemont Stadium, the home of the Chicago Bandits, in a victory over Nebraska.

It’s apparent LeBeau fully has settled in after a freshman season in which she hit .294, with no homers and just six RBI.

“I think you go through a lot of changes your freshman year,” LeBeau said. “You’re not as comfortable as you were as a senior in high school and everything was going great. But I have two head coaches (Kate and Caryl Drohan) who motivated the heck out of me.

“What’s great about them is that people say, ‘Yeah, we care about you and it’s more than just about softball,’ but they’re sincere. I respect the coaches here a lot because they push me so hard, not because they want me to fail, but they want me to succeed.”

Brianna LeBeau exploded onto the Southland softball scene as a freshman at Richards during the 2009 season, hitting .467 and smacking nine homers, earning All-Area status and being named the South Suburban Red Player of the Year.

It was the beginning of four years’ worth of honors for the Worth resident, culminated in her senior year when she was named SouthtownStar Softball Player of the Year.

While her sisters Brittany and Amanda went on to have fine college softball careers and earned degrees at Wisconson-Whitewater, Brianna committed to Northwestern during her sophomore year at Richards.

The littlest LeBeau had a lot of pressure on her to succeed during her entire high school career. And boy, did she step up.

All four years she was All-Area. She always was one of the area’s most feared hitters. She developed into one of the area’s most dominant pitchers.

Her numbers as a senior were downright awe-inspiring: A .591 average, 41 RBI, 48 runs, a 0.88 ERA, 158 strikeouts in 167 innings, two no-hitters — one a perfect game — and nine shutouts.

She was the hype, and she lived up to it.

College has brought a new set of challenges that she’s starting to meet. First, she’s playing second base instead of pitching.

“We fiddled with it a little bit, but I think for the good of the team my best spot is at second,” LeBeau said. “I miss touching the ball on every play, but I really enjoy the action I get at second. I have the range there and can make exciting plays.”

The hitting took a little longer to come around, but college pitchers are finding that a good scouting report on LeBeau won’t necessarily strike her out.

In that regard, she’s still a Bulldog.

“I love college, but I will always have a special place in my heart for Richards,” LeBeau said. “I talked about my coaches here caring about you, but Julie Folliard was a great part of my success as well.

“I’m not one to put my chest out easily, and sometimes it takes me a while to get comfortable. But Julie cared about every single one of her players, personally and softball-wise. I was comfortable being myself there. I’m still friends with some of the girls. I hope they do well this year.”



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