by Beau Wicker
It was certainly an emotional end to the season for Pioneer’s softball team.
The Panther seniors put the hard work in over the last four years and helped put the program back on the map, winning three regional titles in a row.
Their season was ended for the second time in three years by Lakewood Park Christian Monday in semistate play. Both losses were by 3-0 scores.
But this loss felt a little bit differently for the players than it did two years ago. Two years ago Pioneer had a much younger team and was simply outplayed by LPC. This year the more seasoned Pioneer squad matched up better with the LPC powerhouse and actually felt the game should have gone into extra innings after a pair of controversial calls didn’t go Pioneer’s way.
Pioneer senior pitcher Betsy Bingaman and senior catcher Lindsey Miller, this week’s Athlete of the Week, tried their best to fight back tears during an interview shortly following the game.
“We can’t control what the umpires say,” Bingaman said. “We knew what we were going to face and we did a really good job against that pitcher. We didn’t strikeout near as many times as we would have if we hadn’t practiced or in the beginning of the season even.”
Miller went 2-for-3 in the contest and had two of Pioneer’s five hits on the day against LPC junior Mikeila Boroff.
One of those hits nearly left the yard in the sixth inning but crashed off the fence. Miller had to settle for a double and was later left stranded.
“I had two strikes on me so I knew I had to protect,” she said. “It was close so I swung.”
Bingaman proved herself to be a big-game pitcher throughout her career and for all intents and purposes shut down LPC on just five hits.
“Betsy did a great job,” Miller said. “I’m really proud of her.”
“Lu did, too,” Bingaman said of Miller. “She never even caught before when she was a sophomore and now she’s like the best catcher ever.”
Miller led the Panthers (24-7) with a .489 batting average this season. She scored a school-record 42 runs in 31 games. She added four home runs, one triple, 12 doubles and 21 RBIs.
“She’s been one of our key pieces, a key clog in our success,” Pioneer coach John Bingaman said. “She had a nice, short compact stroke through the zone. It’s tough to teach kids that. She had an effortless swing that’s pretty quick.
“She was a great signal caller. This whole year I didn’t call one pitch. I thought I’ve got a senior catcher and senior pitcher. I talked with them between innings sometimes but that didn’t happen very often. She called the whole game and directed the defensive fronts and movements. No one attempted steals on us. I don’t have the stats on it but no one attempted steals on us at all. She helped solidify the middle for us.”
Miller had to fill big shoes in her career in both softball and volleyball. In softball she stepped in at catcher after Kattie Lee moved to the Frontier school district following their freshman year. In volleyball Miller stepped in at setter this season after Cortney Hanson graduated.
Pioneer has won three regional titles in a row in softball and two regional titles in the last three years in volleyball.
The following is a question-and-answer session with Miller.
Q. Of the sports you play, which is your favorite? Why?
A. Softball is my favorite sport because I love the atmosphere during games. I love swinging a bat and throwing a ball and helping my team succeed. Nothing beats a two-out rally!
Q. How did you first get started in sports? At what age?
A. I started T-ball when I was 5 years old and then when I was 10 I started playing volleyball.
Q. Do you have any family members who played sports?
A. My dad, Ed, played baseball and football at Pioneer. My mom, Fay, played volleyball and ran track at Logan and went on to play college volleyball at Wm. Penn College in Iowa. My brother Tyler played football, basketball, and baseball at Pioneer. My little sister Kayte plays volleyball, basketball and softball.
Q. Have you ever played a sport that you were not successful at?
A. I tried the whole basketball thing, but it wasn’t really for me. I love to watch it though!
Q. Who do you consider your biggest role model? Why?
A. My parents because they have always been there to support me. They have taught me to work hard to achieve my goals and that you can always get better.
Q. What is something that not everyone knows about you?
A. My sophomore year was the first time I had ever been the catcher. I was a little worried after our scrimmage with Logan that year that I wasn’t going to be able to do it, but I worked hard and learned along the way!
Q. What is your favorite memory of playing sports at your school?
A. My favorite memory of playing sports at my school was being able to play in two semistates with my volleyball team and three semistates with my softball team.
Q. What’s your favorite music, movie, TV show, etc.?
A. MUSIC: Taylor Swift / One Direction. MOVIE: The Little Rascals. TV SHOW: Pretty Little Liars. BOOK: Anything by Nicholas Sparks. SPORTS TEAM: Cubs.
Q. Who is the best athlete in your respective sport you’ve ever gone up against?
A. Miranda Elish, the pitcher for Crown Point’s softball team.
Q. What are your goals for your future? Do you plan on attending college?
A. I will be attending Ball State University in the fall to major in elementary education.
Each week during the school year the Pharos-Tribune recognizes an athlete from one of five area high schools. The recipients are selected by each school’s athletic department.