Slugging senior Olivia Young will graduate from Belleville West next month, joining 12 others at No. 1 in her class.
But there’s no tie at the top of the softball Maroons all-time home run list, a record she seized April 2 with a four home-run afternoon in a round-robin double header against Carbondale and Herrin. Young tied Jenny Klotz at 22 with her first long-ball of the afternoon, then blew past the record with Nos. 23, 24, and 25 as they day wore on.
Her 26th home run was a 290-foot shot at Edwardsville on April 7 and No. 27 was against Highland two days later. She has been looking for No. 28 ever since.
With eight more home runs this season, Young will break the single season record of 13, which she already shares with Klotz.
“I haven’t been getting too many home run balls lately,” said Young. “When I get one though, I try to put a good swing on it. I won’t necessarily try to hit a home run, but as long as I’m selective at the plate and put my best swing on the ball, the home runs will happen.”
The Maroons have dropped their last three games in a row including a 5-1 disappointment in O’Fallon Tuesday which dropped them to 7-12 on the season. Despite the power outage, Young continues to hit. She’s 6-for-10 through the recent skid, which has raised her average to .481 and on-base percentage to .582.
With five doubles and three triples, her slugging percentage is an outstanding 1.019.
“Olivia is one of those who just puts in all the work she has to improve her physical game,” said West head coach Casey Garrett. “She’s in the weight room with (West strength coach) Jesse Swift and she’s in before and after school for extra hitting.
“She’s a strong kid and I think she’s got the perfect power stroke. She drives with her legs and puts a good swing on the ball.”
Young is even more dedicated to her academics, as is Maroons’ outfielder Megan Glaeser, who also is among the top 13 from the Class of 2016.
Young will play softball next season at Missouri S&T in Rolla, where she plans to major in aerospace engineering. In researching her major, she contacted another former athlete from Belleville West who attended college in Rolla — NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus.
“I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut,” Young said. “In our English class this past fall, we had to write a research paper and I chose to do mine on Mars exploration. I contacted her and got an interview. She had a lot of inspirational things to say about keeping goals. Of course, she encouraged me to ‘shoot for the stars.’”
Lancers bounce back
In the aftermath of a short-game loss to Edwardsville April 13, Belleville East coach Natalie Peters could only wonder what had gone haywire. The Lancers had gotten off to a 7-2 start, then promptly dropped four of five games.
But East showed it could rally last season when it turned a 1-6 start into 24-12 with a regional title. Since that loss last Tuesday, the Lancers have won five in a row.
“We’re seeing the ball a little better and finally getting some of those big hits with two out and a bunch of runners on base that we didn’t get before,” Peters said. “We had two games where our defense was just a disaster, but it’s been solid since then and been a real strength for us.”
Junior third baseman Jessica Belzer regained her batting stroke by hitting 7-for-13 on the week with seven RBI and four runs scored. She raised her average to .371 and is second on the team with 14 RBI. Leading the Lancers in RBI is freshman Kendall Patton, who’s batting .358 with 15 RBI.
The pitching rotation of Kristina Bettis, Tori Lonsdale and Angie Vanderpluym held five opponents to 10 runs during the winning streak.
East (13-6) will be back into its Southwestern Conference Schedule at second-place Alton (13-3) Tuesday. The Lancers’ skid started with a 4-2 loss at home to the Redbirds March 31.
“This will be our second time through the conference, so we’re eager to do a little better this time through,” Peters said. “Alton is a great team and the last time we saw them wasn’t our best game. We’re just looking to show that we haven’t played our best softball yet.”