Archive for softball

FAMILY TRADITION: NORTHWESTERN’S SOPHIA BEACHY SIGNS TO PLAY SOFTBALL AT HUNTINGTON UNIVERSITY

Sophia Beachy Signing 2

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. - If there is one thing the Beachy family is known for in Howard County, it is throwing a ball around the diamond. Led by Major League Baseball pitcher Brandon, the Beachy’s are well-known in the baseball world. But that is slightly changing as younger sister Sophia has made a name for herself on the Northwestern High School softball diamond, and her hard work paid off when she signed a letter of intent to continue her career at Huntington University.

For the Beachy family, playing a college sport has become a family tradition.

“I have six siblings and four have played college baseball. I am happy to carry on the (college) legacy,” said Beachy. “I am thankful for my family and their encouragement – I could not have done this without them.”

Beachy said she enjoyed the Huntington campus as soon as she set foot on it.

“Huntington is a great school and I like the campus” said Beachy, who is undecided on her college major. “Coach (Doug) Gower is a great guy and I am excited to play for him. I am really happy (to sign before the season) because it takes some weight off my shoulders – I can just play my game.”

The four-year varsity performer said she has enjoyed her Tiger career.

“I love being around the girls and the coaches,” said the multi-positional player. “I hit a home run last year, and that was a big highlight. I like third base the most, but I will play where they want me to play.”

Northwestern head softball coach Chris Walker said his squad will miss Beachy after she graduates.

“She means a lot to the program,” he said. “She is a good leader and I can put her anywhere on the field. You can count on her getting a hit and she knows how to get the girls fired up.”

For his part, Gower said he took Beachy sight-unseen – he has yet to see her play an actual game. But her personality, athleticism and family history played a huge part in his decision to sign the Lady Tiger standout prior to her senior season.

“I have not seen her play a lot in softball, but I did see her compete in basketball,” said Gower, who has coached the Foresters for 12 years. “I have only seen her play in a couple of camps. I like her spirit – I just knew I had to have her come to Huntington. And her family’s athletic pedigree helped.”

Gower said he first met Beachy at a camp in Indianapolis and had not previously been recruiting her.

“I first met her at a camp and just happened to see her. We made a connection and I felt comfortable with her right away,” he explained. “As I got to know the Sophia and her family, it was just one of those things that I knew would work. She is very athletic and a multiple-sport athlete. Once she concentrates on softball, her growth and ceiling will be pretty high. I am looking forward to seeing her playing.”

Interestingly, Beachy could have gone to college to play softball or basketball. She was an integral part of the 2017 sectional champion Lady Tigers that advanced to the Elite Eight. She said she loved playing basketball.

“I chose softball over basketball a while ago – I don’t know why; it just came to me. I like softball a lot,” she said. “I started varsity (basketball) as a freshman. It was a big change going from middle school to varsity, and now it is over. It went by so fast – but I had fun.”

Northwestern finished the basketball season 22-4, falling in the regional championship game to eventual Class 3A state champion South Bend St. Joseph.

“It was a fun season,” she said. “The freshmen really helped and were a big part of the team. I was excited (to win sectional) to go far, but I would have loved to have gone farther.”

But basketball is now in the rear-view mirror and it is softball full-time moving forward. And that suits Sophia Beachy just fine; after all, tossing a ball is a family tradition.

2016 FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: CATHERINE SKAGGS, KOKOMO HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL

yir-2016-female-athlete-of-the-year-cathy-skaggs-graphic

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

Earning the title of Indiana All-Star does not come easy, and Howard County had two following the 2016 softball campaign – Western’s Brook Strunk and Kokomo’s Catherine Skaggs. Both had great seasons and careers, but when the numbers are crunched from the season, Skaggs earned the title of Sports Journal Female Athlete of the Year.

During her senior season playing shortstop for the Lady Wildkats, Skaggs led Howard County with a .593 batting average (top 15 in state), 36 runs batted in, nine home runs and an on-base percentage of .646. She also scored 36 runs and tallied 48 hits while ripping nine doubles and swiping 15 stolen bases.

For Skaggs, the nine home runs tied the Kokomo High School single-season record. Ironically, she tied the record held by her sister, Christine. During her final three years of varsity, she maintained a whopping .472 batting average while driving in 65 runs. In 285 plate appearances, she only had 23 strikeouts – including just four her senior year.

“Talk about a kid who is going to be sorely missed, Cathy is like having a professional athlete on your team,” said Kokomo head coach Mike Susong. “She is a consummate pro; she organized our off-season workouts and is probably the hardest working kid I have ever coached in any sport. All of the accolades she has earned this year are well-deserved.”

Following the season, she was named first team All-North Central Conference while also earning a first team All-State nod. She helped the Lady Wildkats win 74 games in four seasons while tallying one sectional crown and two NCC titles.

She will play NCAA Division II softball at the University of Indianapolis in the spring. For her efforts, Christine Skaggs earned the title of Sports Journal Female Athlete of the Year.

SPORTS JOURNAL: 2011 STORIES OF THE YEAR

Kokomo's run to the IHSAA Class 4A state championship game is the top sports story in Central Indiana for 2011. (SJ photo: WILLIAM GIBSON)

#1 KATS RETURN TO STATE PROMINENCE

What a run it was. It started with a 10-game winning streak to begin the season, witnessed a North Central Conference title in the middle, and ended in heartbreak at Conseco Fieldhouse. But any way that you look at it, the Kokomo Wildkats boys basketball team thrilled not only the city, but all of Howard County as they enjoyed a memorable run that culminated with an IHSAA Class 4A state runners-up finish. It marked the fifth bridesmaid honor in the 108-year history of the program but the first trip to the finals since 1997.

Kokomo’s historic run started with easy wins in the Logansport Sectional over Harrison (60-47), Lafayette Jefferson (68-51) and the host Berries (92-57). The Kats then downed Jay County 44-37 in the semi-final game of the Marion Regional, then won a thrilling double-overtime game against Pendleton Heights 58-55 when LaBradford Sebree beat the horn with a 3-pointer from deep in the corner of the Bill Green Athletic Complex. Next up was a trip to the Final Four in the Lafayette Semi-State against No. 1-ranked and undefeated Munster, and it took a last second 3-pointer by D.J. Balentine to send the 10th-ranked Kats to the state finals against No. 4 Bloomington South.

Unfortunately, the run ended as Kokomo was ice cold from the field and South downed the Kats 56-42 on the biggest stage of the high school season. Kokomo’s normally solid shooting squad only hit 1 of 15 from beyond the arc in the heartbreaking loss.

Regardless, the run was a thrill ride for the Wildkat Nation. Thousands of fans followed Kokomo throughout the tournament and it was apparent this group of Red and Blue uniformed Kats won the hearts of a community. Names like Balentine, Swain, Sebree, Persons, Tinder, Moses, Bridgeforth, Salinas, Bowen, Meriwether, Collins, Burnett, Fowler and Clark will be remembered for a long time. No doubt – this was the top sports story in Central Indiana for 2011.

The Kokomo boys basketball team became the darlings of the community as they made a run to the IHSAA Class 4A state finals (see page 9 for the story). After the season, head coach Brian McCauley was named as a coach for the Indiana Junior All-Star team and University of Evansville recruit D.J. Balentine was named a core-five member of the Indiana Junior All-Star team.

#2 BEACHY STRIKES OUT THE SIDE

Northwestern High School graduate Brandon Beachy took the Major League Baseball world by storm this year. After being called up to help the Atlanta Braves close the 2010 season, Beachy headed into the 2011 Spring Training with one goal – make the Braves rotation. He did and became a stalwart in the rotation. By the time he dusted off his Braves uniform for the final time of 2011, he had a record of 7-3 in 25 starts, with an ERA of 3.68 in 141.2 innings.

He also recorded 169 strikeouts to set the Braves franchise rookie strikeout mark, breaking the previous mark of 156 set in 1950. The righties 10.7 strikeout rate was second best in the Major Leagues and fourth best in MLB history for rookie pitchers. That is why he is the Sports Journal co-Athlete of the Year for 2011.

#3 GO SPARTANS!

For the next four-and-a-half years, Howard County will become fans of the Michigan State Spartans as two area players are friends with Sparty. Kokomo graduate Brandon Wood has done what few Wildkat basketball players have done before, break into the starting lineup of a Big Ten school. After being named to the All-Horizon League First Team and graduating from Valparaiso University with eligibility left, Wood chose to play one season for the Spartans and has made an immediate impact – even starting the Carrier Classic game in front of President Barack Obama.

Once Wood graduates this spring, Howard County residents will tune into Spartan football to watch soon-to-be Eastern graduate and three-sport standout Josiah Price play on the gridiron for MSU head coach Mark Dantonio. Price finished his high school football career by leading the Comets to within one win of an improbable Mid-Indiana Conference title. He was named Associated Press Class 2A First Team All-State and the Indiana Football Coaches Association placed him on its Top 50 All-State Team. Maybe a berth on the All-Big Ten Freshman squad is next.

#4 LET’S GO COUGARS!

It sounded ambitious – maybe even unattainable – when it was formally announced in early 2011. IU Kokomo Chancellor Dr. Michael Harris proclaimed that he wanted to start an athletic program and have a women’s volleyball team on the court by the start of the season in the fall. Never mind the fact that there were no coaches, players or facilities.

But when the fall season started, there was Dr. Harris standing in the Northwestern High School bleachers proudly cheering on his IU Kokomo Cougars volleyball team and head coach Kristen Snoddy. At the same time, Jace Thompson was busy signing players and forming a college basketball team – and when they took the court for the first time just two months later – the Cougar men promptly won its first game on the road in Gary against IU Northwest.

So congratulations to Dr. Harris and the new Cougar Nation on setting the bar high and going for broke. We hope the NAIA application is approved and more sports are added in the future. Let’s go Cou-gars (Clap. Clap. Clap, clap, clap)!

#5 AVERTING CATASTROPHE

On Dec. 3, 14 members of the Kokomo High School girls swim team found themselves on a bus with a driver who would eventually be tested with a blood alcohol concentration of .20-percent. According to the Howard County Sheriff Department, bus driver Theresa Mast was arrested for driving while intoxicated, but thanks to the quick thinking of the head coach and a parent following the bus in a privately owned vehicle, Mast pulled the bus over before anyone was hurt.

According to police reports, a witness said, “it was the scariest thing she ever witnessed.” Mast pled not guilty to the charges and is now awaiting a court date after being charged with three counts, including a D Felony Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangering a Minor. The Kokomo-Center School Corporation terminated Mast.

See the January 3 edition of the Sports Journal for the whole list of top stories. Digital subscriptions are free!