Softball POY: Homefield advantage pays off for Everingham

Softball POY: Homefield advantage pays off for Everingham

OLIVET — Elizabeth Everingham always had a clear vision of her field of dreams.

They were present when she went to bed, and they were within view when she awoke. Everingham didn't need to close her eyes to picture it. The softball field was her backyard prior to the days she enrolled in high school at St. Joseph-Ogden.

There's a fully functional field with a backstop, dugouts, a batting cage and a pitching machine. There's even a pavilion to sit during breaks.

"After visiting the Field of Dreams (movie site in Iowa), ours was nicer, other than the lights," said Terry Everingham, who owns White Construction and built the elaborate play area known as W.C. Field for his children 12 years ago.

After brother Kris was finished using it as a practice baseball diamond, it was converted to a softball field for Elizabeth and her older sister, Rachael. It's where Elizabeth Everingham started honing the skills and fine-tuning the talent that resulted in her joining one other former area athlete as two-time selections to headline The News-Gazette All-Area Softball Team as Player of the Year.

"It was easy to come out and practice," she said. "You've got to practice to get better."

The St. Louis recruit was at her best this spring. A right-handed pitcher, she set the single-season area record for wins (32) while leading the Spartans to third place in the Class 2A state tournament. She was also the area's most prolific home run hitter (14) as well as the area leader in RBI (78).

"Every now and then I hear someone say, 'She's a great natural hitter,' " Terry Everingham said, "but they don't understand the time she has put in. She has worked hard."

The devotion was evident, SJ-O coach Randy Wolken said.

"She is ahead of her time as far as maturity and approach to the game," Wolken said. "Her concentration is 100 percent on the situation. She is one of the hardest workers in every sport she is out for. It's not her personality to take a break."

***

The field was constructed, on converted pasture land, in less than a month. It was built when Terry Everingham and his wife coached youth teams.

"Back then, you fought over (available) ball diamonds," he said.

With the field on a portion of the family's 13-acre property, practices — individually or with a team — could occur any time Mother Nature cooperated.

Though Elizabeth Everingham also played basketball, there was never any question about her sport of choice.

"I like playing outdoors more than in a gym," she said. "I love softball, and I love being able to go on and play in college."

Her home field has been a part of her almost half of her life.

"I've practiced on it since I was 10," said Everingham, who will be 19 in December.

The field won't be well-used this summer. Everingham's travel team, the New Lenox Lightning Gold, started its summer season last Thursday. Before she reports to college, Everingham will be home for 21 days during the next two months.

The team is traveling to Minneapolis, Boulder, Colo., New York's Central Park, Indianapolis and possibly Huntington Beach, Calif.

***

At the next level, she is projected as an infielder, likely at third base. Everingham, however, started attending offseason pitching camps conducted by Wolken as a fifth-grader.

"She took everything in," he said. "You could see her determination."

When she was a sixth-grader, Wolken saw something more. He saw a changeup thrown with proper finesse and technique.

"Her change was better than our varsity pitchers," Wolken said. "I had her demonstrate it to our varsity."

Everingham continued to excel as a pitcher, but — truth be told — it wasn't her favorite position.

"She did not want to pitch this year," Wolken said. "I talked with her and told her, 'For our team to be good, you have to pitch. And you can't just pitch, you have to be great at it.' "

She more than met those expectations. SJ-O's 41-1 season record set the standard for wins in a season by an area softball team. All along, Everingham understood what was needed.

"We had so many great bats in the lineup, I could contribute more pitching," she said. "Overall, I'm a better hitter and I knew it would be easier to find a school (college) that would fit me better if I were not a pitcher. I won't be pitching in college."

***

Wolken — along with former Casey-Westfield coach Denny Throneburg — has tutored many of the area's premier pitchers for decades at offseason camps, clinics and with private sessions. This year, Wolken thought it was time for a change.

First-year SJ-O staff assistant Heather Black — a former Casey-Westfield player — became Everingham's personal pitching coach.

"Heather worked with her mentally and physically," Wolken said. "That is the biggest reason 'E' is so much better."

Seldom — if ever — did Everingham throw a fastball during a game.

"During the season, it's practice for the end of the season," Wolken said. "You can't get by with a fastball at super-sectional and state. That's why we practice other pitches during the season."

Everingham rated the screwball as her best pitch but was confident in the rise ball, changeup and curveball in any situation. The staff eliminated the drop ball from her repertoire during the season's final month.

"Her other pitches were a lot better," Wolken said.

***

Everingham finished fourth in the area in strikeouts (242), but that wasn't her objective.

"I never try to strike people out," she said. "I try to make them hit my pitches. If they hit the ball, I have teammates to back me up and make incredible plays."

When pitching for a radar gun, Everingham's pitches have been clocked at more than 60 mph.

"That's not important," she said. "Just getting them out, somehow."

Everingham and catcher Mickaela Fleming — also an All-Area first-teamer — worked in harmony with Wolken at games. The pitcher estimated that "no more than 10 times" did she shake off a call.

"I trust Coach Wolken," Everingham said. "He is always thinking a few pitches ahead. If I did (shake off a called pitch) it was because I could see where the batter was standing."

If she could somehow bat against herself, Everingham's approach would be "go for one of the earlier pitches and not get behind (in the count) and wait for the pitcher to screw up."

***

What makes Everingham a complete player includes more than her ability to pitch a softball and to hit the ball with authority. More than 59 percent of her hits this season (45 of 76) landed for extra bases.

"Her best asset," Wolken said, "is her defense. Her reactions are so quick, like a cat's. We fielded almost every bunt with her. She does everything fundamentally right with her footwork and arm. Not many balls get by her. It surprises a lot of people.

"There will never be another player like her in my generation, not with the total package. She is a special player."

How hard Everingham hit the ball was easy to document. By the end of her high school season, she was on her seventh Easton Stealth 2012 bat of the spring. The constant pounding caused the first six to break.

"One of them lasted two games," said Terry Everingham, who didn't have to pay full cost ($300 apiece) for each replacement bat.

As good as Elizabeth Everingham is now, Wolken believes her best playing days are in the future.

"She can hit college pitching right away," Wolken said. "She will shine in college."

It all started, you could say, with her unique form of home schooling.

As for that field, Terry Everingham doesn't expect to return it to pasture.

"My wife tells me we'll have grandkids," he said.

Players of the Year

YR.    NAME    SCHOOL    POS.
2012    Elizabeth Everingham    St. Joseph-Ogden    P
2011    Elizabeth Everingham    St. Joseph-Ogden    P
2010    Hannah Bowen    St. Joseph-Ogden    2B
2009    Monica Rondon    Champaign Central    C
2008    Kelsi Hoey    Tuscola    P
2007    Terra Ramsey    Westville    1B
2006    Morgan Finn    SJ-O    P
2005    Kaci Young    SJ-O    P
2004    Nikki Davis    Arthur-Lovington    P
2003    Elizabeth Piatt    Monticello    OF
2002    Merdle Anders    SJ-O    OF
2001    Molly Lawhead    Monticello    P
2000    Joella Koss    Unity    P
1999    A.J. Reeley    Danville    P
1998    Kristen King    SJ-O    P
1997    Kristen King    SJ-O    P
1996    Kelly Duitsman    SJ-O    2B
1995    Syndrea Porter    Rantoul    2B
1994    Erin Riddle    Rantoul    SS
1993    Ali Franzen    Rantoul    P
1992    Michele Suits    SJ-O    OF
1991    Amy Scharlau    SJ-O    2B
1990    Stef Fiscus    SJ-O    P

First Team
NAME    SCHOOL    POS.    YR.
Elizabeth Everingham    St. Joseph-Ogden    POY/P    Sr.
Regan Romshek    Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley    P    Sr.
Jordan Wheeler    Blue Ridge    P    Sr.
Mickaela Fleming    St. Joseph-Ogden    C    Jr.
Abby Immke    St. Joseph-Ogden    Inf.    Sr.
Lea Hall    Schlarman    Inf.    So.
Brittany Hay    Georgetown-Ridge Farm/C    Inf.    So.
Sam Ledbetter    Tuscola    Inf.    Sr.
Stephanie Canfield    St. Joseph-Ogden    OF    Sr.
Kalli Gosser    Fisher    OF/Inf.    Jr.
Abbey McElwee    St. Joseph-Ogden    OF    Sr.
Amber Miller    Tuscola    DH/C    Jr.
Erin Walker    Tuscola    Utl./P    So.

Second Team
NAME    SCHOOL    POS.    YR.
Liz Satterlee    Paxton-Buckley-Loda    P    Sr.
Hilary Smith    Heritage    P    Sr.
Kaiti Bowen    Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley    C    Sr.
Kelsey Cleland    Tuscola    Inf.    Sr.
Shelby Franzen    St. Joseph-Ogden    Inf.    Sr.
Jessica Roberts    Mahomet-Seymour    Inf.    Jr.
Melinda Wilson    Blue Ridge    Inf.    Sr.
Alex Stupek    Argenta-Oreana    OF/Inf.    Jr.
Stephanie Sanderson    Heritage    OF    Jr.
Alie Tarrant    Mahomet-Seymour    OF/P    Jr.
Jaimey Watrous    Monticello    DH/P    Sr.
Brittany Ribbe    Bismarck-Henning    Utl.    So.

Special Mention
NAME    SCHOOL    POS.    YR.
Brooke Allen    Paxton-Buckley-Loda    Inf.    Sr.
Sydne Bryant    Schlarman    Inf.    Jr.
Liz Cordes    Blue Ridge    OF    So.
Taylor Edwards    Arcola    P    Fr.
Sarah Foran    Monticello    Inf.    Sr.
Hayley Gray    Watseka    Inf.    So.
Kathryn Grimes    Watseka    Inf.    Jr.
Emily Griswell    St. Joseph-Ogden    Inf.    Sr.
Jamie Hedrick    Rantoul    P    Sr.
Allie Hislope    Monticello    C    So.
Kilee Hoffman    Villa Grove    OF    Sr.
Jessica Hunter    Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley    Inf.    Sr.
Sam Kohlbecker    Tuscola    OF    Sr.
Lindsey Krippel    Prairie Central    Inf.    Sr.
Emily Kroeger    Clinton    Inf.    Jr.
Kayln Learnard    Salt Fork    Inf.    Fr.
Hunter Marsh    Salt Fork    P    Sr.
Hannah Millington    Argenta-Oreana    Inf.    Sr.
Jordan Ogle    Danville    Inf.    Jr.
Ashlen Portwood    Milford    C    Sr.
Lexi Rogers    Tuscola    Inf.    Sr.
Lizzy Smith    Villa Grove    P    Jr.
Taylor Spivey    Unity    C    Jr.
Alyssa Spoerer    Mahomet-Seymour    Inf.    So.
Courtney Stamm    Centennial    Inf.    Sr.
Ashley Tabb    Arthur-Lovington    P    Jr.
J.J. Valentine    Paxton-Buckley-Loda    Inf.    Sr.
Ashley Wahlfeldt    Oakwood    C    Sr.
Kylee West    Schlarman    P    Sr.
Lexi White    Urbana    Inf.    Jr.

Honorable Mention
(school-by-school listing)
ARCOLA — Laynee Clark, Jr.; Cara Edwards, Jr.; Holly Henry, Sr.
ARGENTA-OREANA — Katie Jimison, Sr.
ARMSTRONG-POTOMAC — Kirsten Newnum, Jr.; Morgan Zindars, So.
ARTHUR-LOVINGTON — Sherrelle Coller, So.; Kaitlynn Kauffman, Jr.; Mallory Renfro, Jr.; Brooke Tabb, Fr.
BISMARCK-HENNING — Lani Andrews, So.; Lauren McKenzie, Jr.
BLUE RIDGE — Jamison Brandt, So.
CERRO GORDO — Kristie Krigbaum, So.; Sadie Sawyer, Fr.
CENTENNIAL — Rebekah Bamert, Jr.; Lexi Hall, So.; Katie Janson, Jr.
CHAMPAIGN CENTRAL — Jennifer Sola, So.
CLINTON — Bailey Walker, Jr.
DANVILLE — Kaitlin Baxter, Jr.; Kristi Burghart, Jr.
FISHER — Leah Williams, Fr.
GEORGETOWN-RIDGE FARM/CHRISMAN — Callan Hall, Jr.; Lacey Krabel, Sr.; Alyssa Sawyer, Sr.
GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY — Jackie Freehill, Sr..; Emily Spangler, Sr.
HERITAGE — Alex Danner, Sr.; Brittany Latham, Sr.; Miranda Pruitt, So.; Dani Stigers, Sr.
HOOPESTON AREA — Bryce Franklin, Sr.; Brooke Kinney, Sr.; Rylee Martin, Fr.
IROQUOIS WEST — Catherine Braemer, Sr.; Haley Pence, Sr.
LeROY — Stephanie Hintz, Sr.; Shannon Steffen, Jr.; Ashley Walker, Sr.
MAHOMET-SEYMOUR — Kristen Belyea, Jr.; Vanessa Heinold, Jr.; Lindsey Ogle, Jr.
MILFORD/CISSNA PARK — Erin McNally, So.; Kylie Scherf, Sr.
MONTICELLO — Samantha Valentine, Fr.
OAKWOOD — Tessa England, Sr.; Karissa Nelson, Sr.
PAXTON-BUCKLEY-LODA — Catlyn Ekstrom, Sr.; Paige Schwartz, Jr.
PRAIRIE CENTRAL — Brooke Bachtold, Jr.; Sabin Brummitt, Jr.; Maci Oelschlager, Sr.
RANTOUL — Sadie Adkins, Sr.; Grace Bjornbak, Sr.; Carson Church, Fr.; Keegan Jones, Jr.
RIDGEVIEW — Taylor Hastings, So.; Brigette Tracy, Sr.; Dani Washington, So.
SALT FORK — Emilie McFadden, So.; Kaylee McFadden, Fr.
SCHLARMAN — Elizabeth Hawkins, Sr.; Bayli Mitchell, Fr.
SHILOH — Stephanie Hunt, Jr.; Deborah Pryle, Jr.
SOUTH PIATT — Alex Miller, So.; Kaitie Wildman, So.
ST. JOSEPH-OGDEN — Samantha Fleming, Jr.; Kenzie James, Jr.; Molly McElwee, Fr.; Mady Poulter, Fr.
ST. THOMAS MORE — Elena Kramer, Jr.; Brooke Schmidt, Sr.; Alyssa Vodacek, Jr.
SULLIVAN — Brittney Lamendola, Jr.
TUSCOLA — Carman Comerford, Jr.; Audrey Mooney, Sr.
UNITY — McKenzie Krutsinger, Fr.; Lacy Pruitt, Jr.
URBANA — Jessa Johnson, Sr.; LaNeeca Lipscomb, Sr.
VILLA GROVE — Sarah Showalter, Jr.
WATSEKA — Mariah Carroll, Jr.
WESTVILLE — Abby Barth, Sr.; Ashley Hoffman, Jr.
 

Final area Top 10

TEAM (PREVIOUS)     W-L
1. St. Joseph-Ogden (1)    41-1   — Four of top five hitters were seniors
2. Tuscola (2)    26-8    — Three of top five hitters were seniors
3. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (3)    27-9    — Four of top five hitters were seniors
4. Blue Ridge (4)    20-11   — Two of top five hitters were seniors
5. Heritage (5)    28-4    — Three of top five hitters were seniors
6. Rantoul (NR)    19-19   — Two of top five hitters were seniors
7. Paxton-Buckley-Loda (7)    24-9   — Three of top five hitters were seniors
8. Monticello (8)    22-10    — Two of top five hitters were seniors
9. Unity (9)    20-15   — None of top five hitters were seniors
10. Georgetown-Ridge Farm (10)    21-3    — One of top five hitters was a senior

Final area standings

Big 12
TEAM    CONF.    ALL
Mattoon    12-1    35-5
Normal Community    12-1    30-6
Normal West    11-2    25-11
Bloomington    8-5    18-14
Centennial    8-5    16-19
Urbana    6-7    13-23
Danville    4-9    8-23
MacArthur    3-10    5-23
Central    1-12    1-32
Eisenhower    0-13    0-32

Corn Belt
TEAM    CONF.    ALL
Normal U-High    7-0    22-15
Olympia    6-1    25-9
Prairie Central    4-3    19-13
Mahomet-Seymour    3-4    21-16
Rantoul    3-4    19-19
Pontiac    3-4    16-19
Bloomington CC    2-5    15-18
Eureka    0-7    14-44

Heart of Illinois
TEAM    CONF.    ALL
Tri-Valley    11-1    25-8
Tremont    10-2    31-6
GCMS    10-2    27-9
Blue Ridge    9-2    20-11
Fieldcrest    9-3    23-7
Deer Creek-Mack.    7-5    16-13
Flanagan-Cornell    4-7    19-11
LeRoy    4-7    11-17
El Paso/Gridley    3-6    10-19
Heyworth    3-7    7-18
Fisher    3-9    9-20
Ridgeview    1-11    8-22
Lexington    0-12    1-22

Little Okaw Valley
TEAM    CONF.    ALL
Heritage    16-0    28-4
Arcola    13-3    16-13
Arthur-Lovington    10-4    14-10
Villa Grove    10-6    14-11
Okaw Valley    8-8    12-16
South Piatt    6-10    6-17
Shiloh    4-11    6-20
Cerro Gordo    2-13    2-22
Martinsville    1-15    1-16

Okaw Valley
TEAM    CONF.    ALL
Maroa-Forsyth    11-0    25-1
Shelbyville    9-2    24-9
Tuscola    8-3    26-8
Monticello    8-3    22-10
St. Teresa    7-4    19-13
Clinton    6-5    18-15
Argenta-Oreana    4-7    15-13
Central A&M    4-7    15-14
Unity    3-8    20-15
Sullivan    3-8    8-22
Meridian    2-9    17-15
Warrensburg-Lath.    1-10    11-18

Sangamon Valley
TEAM    CONF.    ALL
St. Joseph-Ogden    12-0    41-1
Paxton-Buckley-Loda    10-2    24-9
Momence    7-5    18-18
Clifton Central    6-6    11-17
Watseka    5-7    13-18
Iroquois West    2-10    5-20
St. Thomas More    0-12    4-29

Vermilion Valley
TEAM    CONF.    ALL
Georgetown-RF/C    15-1    21-3
Bismarck-Henning    13-3    19-9
Westville    10-5    15-9
Salt Fork    9-6    15-14
Armstrong-Potomac    6-9    9-18
Schlarman    5-10    10-24
Milford    5-11    11-20
Hoopeston Area    4-10    11-20
Oakwood    2-14    3-24

Sections (3):Prep Sports, Sports, Softball
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Softball, Sports

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