BARANEK: Coach’s pep talk draws inspiration
By Tony Baranek email@example.com June 1, 2014 10:56PM
Beecher celebrates after beating Reed-Custer 9-2 to claim a Class 2A sectional title on Saturday. | Tony Baranek/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2014 6:21AM
Sarah Crews’ pitches were all over the place, and she looked a bit unsettled throwing them.
Saturday’s Class 2A sectional final against host Reed-Custer was not the best time and place for loading the bases with nobody out and giving an underdog team a chance to draw first blood.
It was the very best time for Beecher coach Kevin Hayhurst to make a visit to the circle.
Hayhurst spent the better part of a minute talking with Crews, her catcher and her infielders.
“I tried to just be a calming effect on her,” Hayhurst said. “It was a big game, and I think she was just a little bit nervous. I just said, ‘We’re in the first inning here. Just throw strikes. As long as we can limit some things here we’ll be fine. I have a feeling we’re going to score as we go.’”
What happened after he returned to the dugout was nothing short of amazing.
Three straight strikes. Three straight strikes. Groundout. End of inning.
After Beecher scored three times in the bottom of the first inning and went on to win 9-2, I texted a colleague about what I had just seen.
He responded that he was happy for Kevin Hayhurst, and added, “He’s the master.”
It sure seems that way.
Monday, at Rosemont Stadium, Beecher (32-7) will be making a bid for its first trip to state since it won its second Class A title in 2007. The opponent is Westmont (22-10), which survived a 2-0 sectional final game against host Immaculate Conception.
The Sentinels have a veteran pitcher (Kristen Skala) and catcher (Skyler Poel) combination, and a solid shortstop in Maria Prete. They don’t, however, have the caliber of competitive innings behind them that Beecher does.
Westmont played Reed-Custer on May 9 and lost 8-1. There were no New Triers or Sandburgs on their regular-season schedule.
The Bobcats compete against a lot of Class 3A and 4A teams during the regular season, and are more than just a handful for them.
In 2014, Beecher beat Oak Forest, Marian, Sandburg, Oak Lawn and New Trier.
The Sandburg game was a 9-8 barnburner. On May 4 against New Trier, freshman Taylor Johnson stepped up like a senior, slamming a three-run home run to lift the Bobcats to a 3-2 win.
You just can’t beat that type of experience, and it’s the master’s, er, I mean, Hayhurst’s doing. It was certainly not lost on Crews Saturday when we discussed some of things that give Beecher an edge in this year’s Class 2A run for the roses.
“I think (the tough schedule) kind of really prepared us for this type of thing,” Crews said. “Our (River Valley) conference games are usually won by a few runs, but we are prepared for these close playoff games because we play those big schools and we get those game experiences that we need.
“Sometimes (in the post-season) it’s kind of a pressure like when you only have one run, and you can’t make mistakes. I think those games really prepared us for this kind of thing.”
One thing that Hayhurst won’t have to do, Crews said, is keep the Bobcats’ feet on the ground. Another kind of experience, a 2013 regional loss, took care of that.
“Last year we kind of thought that we going to get here and it was taken away from us by Wilmington,” she said. “We beat them earlier in the year, and then we came out flat.
“Being able to get this far and kind of do everything we’re supposed to and maybe even advance farther feels really good.”
It’s a chance they’re not about to squander