St. Stephen's & St. Agnes clean-up hitter Alexis Sargent belted a would-be single into left field to lead off the second inning of an April 21 contest at Flint Hill. With the score tied, Sargent noticed an opportunity to get into scoring position as she approached first base.
As Sargent rounded the bag, she collided with the Flint Hill first baseman, sending the Huskies infielder to the ground. Sargent saw the base umpire signal an "obstruction" call and the Saints sophomore jogged confidently toward second, knowing the umpire's ruling awarded her the base. The following batter, junior Emma Luparello, singled to right and Sargent came around to score a run that might not have happened without her heads-up maneuver.
Did Sargent purposefully collide with the Flint Hill first baseman? Her smile and laugh after the game provided an adequate answer, but she went on to elaborate.
"I’ve played enough ball to know," Sargent said, "that if she’s in the way and I hit her, with good umpiring, I’ll get the call and I get second."
Sargent displayed her softball knowledge early in this Thursday afternoon Independent School League contest. She spent the rest of the game showing off her physical talents.
At the plate, No. 00 finished 3 for 4 with a triple, home run and two RBIs. In the pitcher's circle, she matched a season-high with 16 strikeouts. Her performance helped the SSSAS softball team keep its undefeated season alive with a 14-2, six-inning victory.
Last season, Sargent earned first-team all-ISL honors as a freshman while leading SSSAS to its first share of a regular season championship and its first ISL AA Tournament title. Head coach Stephanie Koroma said Sargent is even better this season. Through eight games, Sargent batted .615 with three home runs, nine extra-base hits, 12 RBIs and posted a .689 on-base percentage. In the circle, she struck out 113 batters, an average of 14 per game, with a 0.96 ERA.
"I like to be proud of my past, but I like to keep it behind me and look toward the future because that means nothing about this year," Sargent said. "There's a bunch of great pitchers in our league and I just have to stay focused on what my team does this year."
Sargent is a strikeout machine in the circle. Against Flint Hill, she struck out the side in three of six innings, struck out at least two in every frame and even struck out four Huskies in the fourth inning. She threw 67 of 86 pitches for strikes and tossed a first-pitch strike to 19 of 25 batters faced.
"She is going to strike a lot of batters out," Koroma said. "She’s never happy with herself unless she does. ... She’s pretty focused and [a] pretty dominating pitcher."
Koroma said Sargent's control has improved, she has better movement on her pitches and the right-hander has more confidence in throwing a wider variety of pitches. Part of the reason for Sargent's growth as a pitcher is the development of her battery mate.
"The relationship between [Sargent] and Emma Luparello, the catcher, has grown to the point where [Sargent's] more confident throwing things that have a lot more movement," Koroma said, "because Emma’s improved as a catcher, which has made the duo much stronger."
Sargent throws six pitches — fastball, change-up, curve ball, rise ball, screwball and drop ball — an array that can be difficult for a catcher to handle.
"Last year was the first time I caught for Alexis and it was actually the first time I caught for anyone pitching with movement," Luparello said. "This year, her pitches go a little faster and she’s a lot more specific with her movements. Even though she was really good last year, she’s definitely getting better. It was a challenge [catching Sargent last season], but she was really good at helping me improve a lot. I owe a lot of it to her. We go off in practice and she just coaches me. She helps a lot."
Sargent is a major contributor to the Saints' success, but what makes this year's team different, Koroma said, is the entire lineup is producing. Through eight games, SSSAS batted .390 as a team with a .454 on-base percentage and averaged 11 runs per contest. Luparello went 3 for 4 with three RBIs against Flint Hill and batted .480 with one home run, 10 RBIs and a .567 on-base percentage through eight games. Junior first baseman Taylor Heasley, an all-ISL selection last year, batted .600 with one home run, 10 RBIs and a .636 on-base percentage through eight games.
A 13-0 victory against Stone Ridge on Tuesday improved the Saints' record to 9-0. SSSAS will close the regular season with games at Georgetown Visitation (April 28) and Highland School (April 29) and at home against Maret (May 4) and National Cathedral (May 5) before the start of the ISL Tournament. The Saints finished in a three-way tie for the 2010 regular season title with Georgetown Visitation and Maret, and defeated Maret in the tournament title game.
"Last year was the groundbreaking year," Koroma said. "... I think the expectations are obviously higher. The girls' expectations of themselves are higher. They're not satisfied with anything less than that, so that has been a goal from day one. They don't want to share it this year. They want sole possession."