Sam Stewart is tearing the cover off the ball—just like everyone else in Lincoln-Way East’s lineup.
Stewart, a junior catcher, had three hits in four at-bats in East’s 12-4 softball victory over Andrew on Tuesday afternoon in Tinley Park. She doubled and tripled as the Griffins pounded two T-Bolt pitchers for 13 hits and notched their seventh win in eight games.
East (7-1) has scored eight or more runs in all seven of its victories. And, to hear Stewart tell it, the offensive fireworks have only just begun.
“We are solid up and down the line,” she said. “We are thankful for that. We have our down days, but we’re always there to pick each other up. When someone flies out, the next person in line always is there to start something new, even with two outs.
“It’s never done until the game is over.”
Case in point: East’s reaction to Andrew scoring four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and pulling within 6-4 of the Griffins on Tuesday. East went pedal-to-the-metal with its offense, scoring three runs in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Stewart had hits in all three innings.
“We knew they were a great hitting team,” she said. “So, we knew we just had to come back and answer. I don’t mean to be mean, but we had to shove their faces in the dirt and show them that we can hit, too.”
The irony: Stewart’s game isn’t built on hitting alone. She has a brash confidence about her that comes from calling the shots behind home plate and serving as a Griffin defensive leader, too.
She gunned down one Andrew runner attempting to steal second. A bit later, she sprinted halfway down the first base line to field a swinging bunt and start a 2-3 putout.
“I enjoy it all,” Stewart said. “But I’d have to say that catching is probably my favorite just because of having an eye out for everything that goes on back there. I control the game sometimes. It’s fun to be back there and ready to go.”
Lincoln-Way East coach Elizabeth Pawlicki rates Stewart in the “phenomenal” category—already.
“She’s been very beneficial for us,” Pawlicki said. “She’s a first-year varsity player. She’s constantly hitting the ball. And, I tell you, no girl can steal on her. I think she finally gave up her first stolen base in the last game—or maybe it was the game before.
“The throw was a little off. But she’s absolutely phenomenal.”
The word applies to how Stewart has worked to handle Lincoln-Way East’s two pitchers—Chris Mizera and Kacyee Hart. Mizera (3-0) started and picked up the win against Andrew. She is cutting her teeth in the varsity ranks, too.
Hart is a seasoned veteran. She threw 2.1 innings of scoreless relief at the T-Bolts.
“Chrissy (Mizera) has great movement on the ball,” Stewart said. “Everything is solid with her. She never gives up on herself. We’ve just got to get her to be a little cocky sometimes. She’s too nice sometimes. But she’s always in the game.
“She starts off well. She just got a little tired at the end. And that’s why we have a great backup pitcher. Kacyee Hart. It’s always nice to have that one other person that can help you out when you’re down. It’s kind of like baseball. You have a starter and closer, someone who can finish out the game for you.”