By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
The season ended quickly for the Brentwood High School softball team last week as it lost to Valley Park 17-3 in the first round of the Class 2, District 5 tournament.
It was a memorable season for the Eagles, who finished with a record of 6-6 and third place in the four-team South Central Athletic Association Conference. BHS players had the three highest batting averages and highest on-base percentages in the St. Louis area, according to stltoday.com. They were Alaina Youngstrom (.727 batting average), Haley Holtgrieve (.714) and Kate Nikodym (.679). In addition, Shawn Durham’s .583 average was the 10th highest in the St. Louis area and Alex Richter was No. 5 on the hit-by-pitch list.
Of course, you have to go to stltoday.com to find all that out. Brentwood coach Kelly Javier doesn’t pay much attention to numbers and rankings. She wasn’t even sure what the score was following Brentwood’s 17-7 victory over Lift for Life Academy on Oct. 3. When asked, she grinned and replied, “Remember, I told you to not ask me nasty questions. The score is fun to fun.”
Javier is much more concerned about her players learning life lessons than winning games. After the Oct. 3 win, and after every Brentwood-Lift for Life game, the teams met at home plate to exchange hugs and share a snack. Javier playfully directs each girl, one by one, to hug her “soul sister,” which is the girl on the other team who wears the same number. Then Youngstrom brought out a big container of brownies and invited both teams to partake.
“This is Lift for Life’s third year having a team,” said Javier. “They had, like, one aluminum bat and a couple of balls that first year and we gave them some of our equipment. My team cheers for them when they do something great, just to set the example that even if you don’t play ball for a living, there’s so much to learn about life from playing a team sport like this. We look forward to playing Lift for Life every year because of their attitude. The brownies are because, of course, you’ve got to bring gifts to your soul sisters.”
Then Javier added, “The brownies are all about Karen Youngstrom; she’s our softball mom. She gets off work every day to give kids rides from the high school down to the field. And she’s been doing it for like eight years because her daughter Emily played softball. It’s all behind the scenes – nobody would know all she does for this team.”
A typical lineup for Brentwood this season has been senior Youngstrom at catcher; sophomore Shawn Durham, sophomore Alison Durham or senior Kate Nikodym at pitcher; junior Sandy Roy at first base; senior Alice Richter at second base; junior Haley Holtgrieve at shortstop; Shawn Durham at third base; and some combination of junior Lucy Sappington, junior Morgan Mears, freshman Alexis Jones, junior Anisa Rahaman, junior Ellie Fitzgibbons, sophomore Lexi Brown and junior Maggie Mortensen in the outfield.
“Alaina and Kate are our leaders,” said Javier. “And they lead us in every aspect of the game – from the way we conduct ourselves at school, to making sure that if it rains the team knows where practice is. They’re our best hitters, the ones who can play every position.”
About the Durham twins, Shawn and Alison, Javier said, “Oh my gosh, with such a happy heart, it’s like ‘Okay, we need somebody to pitch,’ and they kind of giggle and the next thing you know, one of them is over throwing strong for us. I think Shawn walked only one batter today [Oct. 3 vs. Lift for Life]. She threw a lot of strikes. We were teasing her in warm-ups, ‘Save the strikes for the game,’ because she was throwing so many strikes.”
Holtgrieve batted well and was impressive at shortstop.
“Haley is an amazing defensive player,” said Javier. “And this year she’s played a leadership role in calling out what the plays are. She knows the game.”
Sappington hit .478, played both infield and outfield and was the team’s third best base stealer.
“Lucy made some game-saving catches in the outfield,” said Javier. “When we beat Bayless and last night against Cleveland NJROTC, she made great catches.”
In Roy’s first season playing for Brentwood, she batted .524 and gained a lot of confidence at first base despite missing some games with an ankle injury.
“Sandy came back from her ankle injury,” said Javier. “Her footwork is so good at first base, especially considering her injury.”
Following are highlights from the season:
Sept. 9: BHS 20, at Lift for Life Academy 0
Talk about a team effort. Seven Eagles batters combined to go 24-for-24 from the plate. Leading her team’s 27-hit parade was Kate Nikodym who went four-for-four and got four runs and three RBI. Alison Durham, Shawn Durham and Alex Richter scored three runs apiece. Lucy Sappington and Alaina Youngstrom each had two runs. Winning pitcher Shawn Durham had two strikeouts in four innings.
Sept. 13: BHS 34, at McCluer South-Berkeley 17
The score was tied at 13 before Brentwood blew it open with a 17-run third inning. Haley Holtgrieve went crazy, scoring five runs, driving in five RBI and stealing four bases. Ellie Fitzgibbons had five runs, two RBI and four stolen bases. Shawn Durham, Nikodym and Sappington scored four runs apiece. Lexi Brown and Youngstrom had three runs each. (Imagine how many runs the Eagles would have scored if Youngstrom hadn’t walked four times.) BHS stole 17 bases. Nikodym and Alison Durham each pitched three innings. “It was pretty awesome,” said Sappington. “It was our first legit win because our win over Hancock was a practice game since we didn’t have enough people. We got a lot of great hits in, a lot of base-stealing, a lot of good runs. In the end we pulled it together on defense as well as offense.” Said Nikodym, “It was a slow start. It was like 5:30 in the second inning. But then we started playing together better.” Roy said of Nikodym’s pitching, “Kate is great.”
Sept. 21: BHS 30, at Bayless 16
Bayless scraped back from a 7-0 deficit in the second inning to lead 14-10 in the fourth. Brentwood retook the lead with eight runs in the fifth then broke the camel’s back with 12 runs in the sixth. Youngstrom led the onslaught with four runs, six RBI and three stolen bases. Nikodym racked up four runs, three RBI, three walks and four steals. Scoring three runs apiece were Shawn Durham, Allison Durham, Sandy Roy, Haley Holtgrieve and Lucy Sappington. Holtgrieve and winning pitcher Shawn Durham combined for seven stolen bases. Sappington and Holtgrieve had four walks each.
Sept. 26: BHS 31, at Cleveland-NJROTC 28
Brentwood took the lead and lost it three times before striking for 10 runs in the fifth inning to retake it for good. Holtgrieve had a memorable day at the plate, going six for six and amassing six runs, four RBI and five stolen bases against a Cleveland team that committed 17 errors. Nikodym also scored six runs and had three RBI, three stolen bases and three walks. Youngstrom went five-for-five and had four runs, five RBI and four stolen bases. Shawn Durham hit a triple on the way to scoring four runs and five RBI. Sappington, Allison Durham and Alex Richter combined for eight runs, six RBI and six stolen bases.
Sept. 29: host BHS 19, Bayless 14
Though Bayless didn’t surrender 30 runs like it had against Brentwood eight days earlier, the Bronchos still suffered from pitching and fielding problems. Sappington walked four times, scored four runs and had four of the Eagles’ 17 stolen bases. Youngstrom knocked in four RBI, scored two runs and stole three bases. Nikodym, Holtgrieve and Roy combined for eight runs, eight RBI and six stolen bases. Winning pitcher Shawn Durham recorded four strikeouts in seven innings of work. “It was our best win and it lasted three hours,” said Javier. “We hit the heck out of the ball and made amazing defensive plays.”
Oct. 3: host BHS 17, Lift for Life Academy 7
Youngstrom, Holtgrieve and Shawn Durham couldn’t have done much better at the plate. They combined to go 13-for-14, hit two triples and a double and scored nine runs. Roy added two runs. The Durham sisters controlled the mound; Allison was the winning pitcher and Shawn earned the save.