By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – The sweetest sound of spring, higher than a robin’s chirp, positively higher than a garden mower’s growl, is the strong smack, the connection of bat and ball. After a yr’s absence, the symphony of softball has returned to Bedford North Lawrence.
Following the cancellation of the whole 2020 marketing campaign, as COVID-19 crash landed on all spring sports activities in Indiana and worn out every little thing, the Stars are again, christening a new-look facility in the course of the opening day of apply for the 2021. And there’s no grass to mow.
BNL formally took the sphere on the glowing turf diamond, with its excellent bounces and pristine colours. Nothing could possibly be finer than to be in uniform, chasing that yellow ball, underneath a heat solar. It was perfection.
Nothing can exchange what was misplaced. BNL had two seniors – Macy Horton and Molly Lambrecht – who had their remaining season erased. They’d a promising, proficient staff miss an opportunity at glory and greatness. That may appear small compared to the lack of lives, jobs and freedoms, however for the teen-agers who love the sport, it left a gap of their finest years. They now get the prospect to make up for misplaced time.
“You solely get 4 years, so lacking one harm,” BNL’s Brynlea Bennett mentioned. “It was very upsetting. We’re all prepared, desirous to play. It introduced a way of how a lot it actually meant. It made me notice how a lot I find it irresistible.”
“I strongly dislike the very fact we had been robbed of a yr,” BNL senior Sarah Stone mentioned. “Highschool ball is an opportunity to reconnect with how a lot you’re keen on the sport. I like enjoying it. We might have gotten lots achieved. For it to be taken from us . . .
After which she summed it up for everybody, in every single place. “COVID simply sucks.”
The virus continues to be a risk, whilst numbers plummet and the colour code relaxes to a softer hue. However after profitable sports activities seasons within the fall and winter, the women of spring are able to blossom. And when BNL hits full bloom, the Stars count on one thing spectacular.
With Stone, a tough hitting College of Kentucky recruit, anchoring the offense, with veterans mixing with a loaded sophomore class that’s prepared to come back of age, BNL is poised for an explosion of feelings and success.
I believe we have now the potential to be very robust,” BNL coach Brad Gilbert mentioned. “We now have youngsters that play lots, they love the sport, they’ve labored exhausting. If we will take these people and get them to bond, purchase into the issues we’re saying and consider in, we have now an opportunity for some actually good issues.
“Time will inform. On paper, we glance fairly good.”
BNL received’t play on paper, however on the rubberized pellets of a brand new area. That was helped elevate the joy degree as nicely.
“I’ve been ready for the turf,” Stone mentioned. “I completely find it irresistible. It’s beautiful.” “Its lovely, it’s superior,” Bennett echoed. “We had an incredible facility earlier than, however the look of it now could be much more thrilling.”
Why the good expectations? Whereas there are solely two-year previous stats for reference, BNL has a strong basis with veterans Stone (.456 with 7 HRs and 36 RBIs in 2019), Carlee Kern (.361 with 25 RBIs), Bennett (.349 with 21 RBIs), Brylee Blackwell (.333) and Haley Deckard (.256) forming the nucleus.
Then add the children with hard-throwing pitcher Annie Waggoner, left-handed speedster Braxton McCauley, versatile Lauryn Anderson and hurler Haley Davis amongst these whose reputations have preceded them. Their summer time journey exploits have ready them for his or her first, if not delayed, varsity marketing campaign.
If a Recreation 1 lineup had been to be scribbled down in pencil, it would appear like Kern at shortstop, Stone at catcher, Waggoner within the circle, Bennett at third, Anderson at 2nd base, Blackwell at first, and an outfield together with Deckard and McCauley. However that’s not written in ink. The subsequent two weeks of preseason work would possibly change the script.
“We’re as deep as we’ve ever been,” Gilbert mentioned. “You may decide from a handful of youngsters to play totally different spots. It will likely be very aggressive the following two weeks to see who shines and will get the opening-day begins.”
BNL’s objectives are lofty. Final yr the Stars had deliberate on taking pictures for the Hoosier Hills Convention championship (BNL has not received one since 1998). What a couple of sectional crown? The Stars have received 11 of these, the final in 2018, plus one regional in 1997. Gilbert had further objectives final season for information in stolen bases (71), wins (23) and runs (301). That hasn’t modified.
What has modified is perspective. BNL has at all times had ardour for the sport. Now it’s been redefined, with the virus backdrop.
“It makes you reevaluate every little thing in your life,” Gilbert mentioned. “You notice we actually did miss the sport. You may simply inform the children had been anxious to hang around with one another. It was powerful.
“It was horrible for everybody. For some folks, it was lots worse. Lots of people misplaced extra than simply enjoying some softball video games. So you need to put that in perspective. It’s only a recreation and there are issues much more necessary.
“With expertise and issues like that, it harm. A whole lot of our children play journey ball, however not all of them. You lose a yr of enjoying with teammates, and bonding, all of the enjoyable instances. That’s as massive as something.”
BNL will begin the restoration of these misplaced reminiscences within the season opener on March 27, when the Stars return from Spring Break week to host Martinsville and Loogootee in a round-robin doubleheader.