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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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