Mix of players solidifies Notre Dame’s softball team

Sid Hastings
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A combination of youth and experience is bringing success and fun for Notre Dame High School's softball team in the early-going this season.

Notre Dame coach Bill McDonough said the mix of players adds a fresh dimension to the team. "The older players are showing the younger players what it's all about, and that's really good to see," he said.

The combination was represented by the battery Aug. 29 — freshman pitcher Carlee Gilham and senior catcher Maddie Low, whose rapport was evident in an 11-2 win against Rosati-Kain High School. Gilham sailed through the first three innings and maintained composure the next two innings when Rosati-Kain attempted to rally. Right-fielder Meghan Madden helped with a double play in the fifth when she caught a fly ball and threw out a runner trying to advance to third base.

Gilham's complete game, a two-hitter with 14 strikeouts, brought Notre Dame's record to 7-1 this season. Low and Bailey Robben each had two hits and Kimberly Daues had two RBIs for Notre Dame.

McDonough said he mixed in some players who haven't been starters and was happy to see their talents. The more experience the nonstarters get, the better the team will be as the season progresses, he noted. "We try to move as many people around as we can. Getting them live at bats in games is so much more important than batting practice."

The team is building toward district playoffs, but the coach is having fun along the way viewing the role each girl plays and how they support each other. The game against Rosati-Kain was just one example. "It was a good opportunity for us, everybody stayed up," McDonough said. "Rosati is a great school, the coaching staff is solid. It was a great game all the way around."

Gilham credited her teammates for the win Aug. 29, noting that the offensive outburst at the start took pressure off, and the crisp defense helped her confidence as well. A member of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, she's having fun with her teammates and enjoying her first year at the school. "I just thank God for what I can do and all the talents He gave me," she said.

Low, also a member of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, said playing softball "gives us a chance to bond with everybody before the school year starts, our own little family."

That carries over during the school year with classmates, but sports add a different dimension as the players learn to trust one another, Low said. They support each other when a mistake is made "because you're not going to get any better when you're so hard on yourself. We have to make sure we pick each other up and learn from it," added the catcher, whose maturity and leadership on the field is reminiscent of St. Louis Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina.

Notre Dame had to replace five seniors from last year's team, but adding sophomore transfer Megan Wolff helped. And the younger players "are really talented and have brought this team up to a whole 'nother level," Low said.

She thanks God each day that she has the opportunity to play softball "at such a great school. Not everyone is lucky enough to play softball, especially at such a high level."

Notre Dame "is a really good place to go to high school, and they have a firm, faith-built education," she said.

McDonough views the softball team as a reflection of the school, preparing the girls for college and beyond. He has an older daughter, Aimilia, a Notre Dame graduate who plays at Indiana University. Younger daughter, Maeve, is a sophomore at Notre Dame on his team. "I truly believe in what Notre Dame stands for and what it prepares these girls for in the future as far as their faith and their ability to succeed not only in school but also in business and life," he said. 

>> Rosati-Kain's Emily Peters

Rosati-Kain High School's softball team has a gem in pitcher Emily Peters.

Peters entered in relief of a game Aug. 29 against Notre Dame High School trailing 8-0. She pitched five innings and gave up three unearned runs, remaining unflustered and firing strikes after misplays in the field by teammates.

The junior, who started at third base, said the game has brought her joy ever since playing T-ball and seeing her mom play softball in an adult league. "I've never stopped loving it," Peters said.

She works each game toward improving and wants to continue playing through college and beyond.

Rosati-Kain's team "is like a big group of sisters, and we have each other's back," she said. "We get closer and closer every game."

The school is a good place for her, she said. "I just love the atmosphere. When you walk in, you know you're going to get a good education, the most fun way possible to get ready for college. I love the location, I love being in the city, and I love the group of 'sisters' you get at Rosati, too."

A member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in south St. Louis, she prays before each game and draws a cross in front of the plate each time she bats. 

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