All-Area Softball POY: M-S' Alie Tarrant

All-Area Softball POY: M-S' Alie Tarrant

MAHOMET — Some people pick up a ball and glove and are seemingly overnight sensations in the pitch-and-catch game.

Alie Tarrant took a more circuitous route to honors as the All-Area Softball Player of the Year as a senior at Mahomet-Seymour.

“Early on, we thought basketball was going to be her best sport but soon realized that she was a pretty good soccer player, too,” Tarrant’s father, Steve, said.

When the family relocated from Oklahoma to Mahomet when Alie Tarrant was 8, the newcomer developed a new interest: softball.

“When she first started with a rec team in Mahomet at age 8, everyone on the team wanted to pitch,” Steve Tarrant said. “There were six or eight girls who were interested, and coach Todd Harrison gave everyone the opportunity to pitch two or three innings per game.”

Alie Tarrant had a knack for throwing strikes and at a speed other 8-year-olds weren’t accustomed to seeing.

“People would ask how hard I threw,” Alie Tarrant said. “It was about 45 (mph). Now that seems crazy. It’s so slow.”

In the next decade her velocity reached speeds of 61 mph.

It takes a team to back up and support pitchers. It took a community to help the right-handed Tarrant develop into a player who will receive scholarship assistance to play at her dream school, Butler University, next school year.

Assistance came from multiple sources, but it started at home.

“In the past year, it wasn’t uncommon for Alie to wake her dad up around 6 a.m. so she could throw or work out three or four times per week before school,” Cindy Tarrant, her mother, said.

In Mahomet’s youth leagues, Alie Tarrant and Kristen Belyea were the two prominent pitchers.

“Kristen’s mom (Gwen) and Jaime Scott’s parents (Tom and Kim) taught me the mechanics and basics,” Alie Tarrant said, “and my dad took me to St. Joe (for camps) to work with Randy (Wolken) and Denny (Throneburg). Randy and Denny helped give me the foundation I needed.”

Work became the operative word in Tarrant’s vocabulary.

“Alie often told her dad she had to throw three or four times a week and was upset when she didn’t get to throw,” Cindy Tarrant said. “She would even ask to take her glove and balls on vacation to stay on a pitching schedule. One year, Alie and her dad practiced throwing on top of a cruise ship while in Alaska on her dad’s trip for work.”

It took time for Alie Tarrant’s game to catch up to others.

“Alie didn’t start out being the best pitcher the first few years,” Cindy Tarrant said. “She often observed other pitchers and used their timing to establish rhythm in her pitching.”

When Harrison formed a traveling team, Alie Tarrant had more coaches working with her and offering input.

“Gwen Belyea, Tom Roberts and Tom’s older daughter, Keary, were ones to show Alie how to pitch,” Steve Tarrant said.

The scenario was far from the adage about having too many cooks in the kitchen.

“I took a little bit from every coach to make my own,” Alie Tarrant said.

Her game grew as did that of others in her talented grade, a class that included Kristen Belyea and Keary Roberts’ younger sister, Jessica.

By the time the softball-playing Class of 2013 was in eighth grade, it was making school history.

M-S started a junior high program in the fall of 2008. That first team — coached by James Heinold — qualified for state.

“This (senior) group had a tremendous amount of potential as eighth-graders,” Heinold said. “At that time, there were many players that could have come out and excelled as they got older, but Alie would have been my first guess at being an outstanding player early. She could hit, field and pitch. She also wanted to win, sometimes to a fault. One of the hardest workers I know.”

Heinold continued following Tarrant’s career after she reached high school. His daughter, Vanessa, is another player in the recent graduated Class of 2013.

“Alie’s biggest growth was in her pitching and staying calm,” Heinold said. “Early in her career, she would let errors and close non-strike calls get to her. Her senior year, she really seemed to shake things off easier and not let them bother her as much.

“She has dedicated herself to the sport of softball, and it has paid off. All the hard work has helped her become the player she is. Everyone could tell she had the potential to be special. She has proven that to be true.”

Current and former M-S coaches such as Mark Jones, Melinda Douglas and Christie Paulson (who is now at Tuscola) played a role in the pitcher’s development.

“Mark’s mentoring through practice and camps influenced Alie,” Cindy Tarrant said. “Over the years, Mark would often come watch her progress outside of the high school season.”

Jones said the changes he’s observed in the right-hander are more than the refinement of her pitching repertoire, which includes her out pitch (rise), a pitch she spent a year mastering (curve) and other staples such as the fastball, dropball, changeup and screwball.

“Alie has really matured since her freshman year,” Jones said. “She has gotten mentally as well as physically stronger. Things during a game that really bothered her when she was younger she can handle a lot better now than in the past.

“She is more in control with her emotions and more focused in a game as well. She has become more of a leader for her teammates.”

For Alie Tarrant, it was never all about pitching.

“Alie sought out hitting instruction at Bradley (University) and the Diamond Sports Academy in the Chicago suburbs,” Cindy Tarrant said.

M-S’ regional championship lineup this spring was well-stocked with seniors, with exceptions at several key positions. One was catcher, where sophomore Lucy Stahl was a calming influence.

“Being close friends off the field helps our communication in a way that makes it easier to work with each other,” Stahl said. “We really don’t hold anything back. If we need to say something to each other, we usually say it.

“If our communication is good and we are working well together in a game and having fun, our teammates feed off that and then we are all having fun.”

Stahl said Tarrant eased her transition to the varsity lineup and helped her feel comfortable.

“We worked together in the winter and before the season started so I got used to her pitching,” Stahl said. “There were a lot of things she taught me that if I didn’t know I would have been lost catching her.

“She taught me how to work the count using more than fastballs and change-ups. Also, working with the umpires’ strike zones and having to adjust to that accordingly.”

Tarrant’s desire to practice was only surpassed by her desire to play.

One story has followed her since 2008, when she suffered a broken left hand in a summer league game while sliding into third base. She wanted to return to action three weeks after the injury in a tournament game at Tolono.

“She begged me to play and, against my better judgment, I got out the padding and started wrapping up the cast,” Steve Tarrant said. “She warmed up with the rule that she could not field or catch any ball thrown or hit back to her.”

Alie Tarrant was summoned in the third inning and registered several strikeouts before earning the win in the semifinals.

She batted, her dad said, “from the left side, slapping the ball while holding the bat only with her right hand.”

She returned to action in the championship game and was the winning pitcher in a one-run game.

“She put her glove just enough on the left (broken) casted hand to hold it in place,” Steve Tarrant said. “The catcher (Nicki Smith) would throw the ball back to the second baseman (Vanessa Heinold) and then she would hand it to Alie.”

Tarrant’s senior season was special beyond her own achievements, which included posting the area’s best ERA (0.95) while leading her team in home runs (school-record six) and RBI (37).

“We had eight seniors, and every one of them wanted to win and helped in their own way,” Tarrant said. “There was no drama. No one fought. We were there for each other.

“It will be hard being away from them, but we’ll keep in touch. They’re all good people, and they’ll be successful. It’s cool to know everything I put into softball has paid off, but the support of the team made me who I am.”

Alie Tarrant set school season records this year for pitching wins (16) and strikeouts (217).

“The pitching position can be so rewarding at times,” Alie Tarrant said, “but it can also be the most frustrating.”

On her path to athletic success, Alie Tarrant didn’t lose sight that life is more than a series of games.

She took two Advanced Placement classes as a junior and three more as a senior. She will enter Butler with six hours of college credit in history.

“She took the ACT multiple times until she got the score she wanted,” Cindy Tarrant said. “Her college coach finally told her not to take it any more because she had maxed out the academic scholarship from Butler.”

None of the news was surprising to her former junior high coach, James Heinold.

“Alie’s biggest asset,” he said, “is her work ethic. She strives to do the best.”

More than seven months ago, she began working a part-time job as a hostess at Outback Steakhouse.

“Alie is driven in all aspects of her life, including work and financial responsibility,” Cindy Tarrant said. “She feels that it is important to participate in support of her college education and took a job.

“Knowing that in college her commitment to softball would not allow her to work, she opened a money market account and has put the majority of her earnings away for spending money at college. This required her to be organized as she had to manage school, softball and a job.

“Outback has been great for her because it allows her to work for someone other than her parents and to work with a variety of people, not to mention working with the public and their experience dining out.”

Alie Tarrant’s reward for her successful senior year was a berth in the state’s Super 60 game. She struck out the first two batters she faced.

The third hit a ground ball back to her. The top spin caused it to ricochet off her glove, striking her face. Her nose was not broken, but she suffered two black eyes.

Tarrant was sidelined for two weeks, but she returned to action with the Bloomington-Normal-based Angels last weekend.

“She used to wear a mask and stopped a few years ago,” Steve Tarrant said. “She asked me to buy her one to use.”

Girls’ softball
Players of the Year

2013    Alie Tarrant    Mahomet-S.    P
2012    Elizabeth Everingham    St. Joseph-O.    P
2011    Elizabeth Everingham    St. Joseph-O.    P
2010    Hannah Bowen    St. Joseph-O.    2B
2009    Monica Rondon    Champ. 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-Lov.    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

Sections (3):Prep Sports, Sports, Softball