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St. Bede senior pitcher Lainie Schweickert is the 2013 NewsTribune Softball Player of the Year. This season the Lady Bruin ace had an area-best 0.67 ERA and 266 strikeouts. She also threw two perfect games, two no-hitters, four one-hitters and three two-hitters while leading St. Bede to a fourth-place finish in Class 2A. NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
As a member of the Starved Rock Bandits 10-and-under team, St. Bede’s Lainie Schweickert didn’t get a chance to pitch much.
At the time, she was behind future La Salle-Peru standouts Brittany Zawacki and Brianna Zeman.
“Brittany and Brianna were always ahead of me, so I strove to be better than them — not in a mean way,” Schweickert said.
So she switched to the Bureau County Blaze where she was able to log plenty of innings, she spent hours pitching to her father, Jerry, off their basement pitching rubber and she took pitching lessons from Tom Finch and Jessica Heider.
“She made the right move,” St. Bede coach Bill Prokup said. “She switched ASA teams because she had two good pitchers in Brianna and Brittany, so (Schweickert) got her innings with the Blaze program and she really blossomed through that. She put in a lot of hard work to do it. Her mom and dad are very supportive. Her dad works with her and pushes her. Tom and Jessica Finch (Heider) have done a great job in helping her become the pitcher she is.”
Schweickert blossomed into the best player in the area.
This season, she threw two perfect games — which included striking out 17-of-18 batters and not allowing a ball in fair territory against Hall — two no-hitters, four one-hitters and three two-hitters.
Schweickert went 19-4 with a 0.67 ERA and 266 strikeouts to 46 walks in 157 2/3 innings.
She averaged 11.8 strikeouts per game, 1.7 per inning and had 14 double-digit strikeout performances, including 23 in 10 innings against Putnam County and 20 in 10 innings in a 1-0 victory over Stillman Valley in the Class 2A Oregon Sectional championship.
For dominating hitters all season — and leading St. Bede to its first state appearance in any female sport — Schweickert is the 2013 NewsTribune Softball Player of the Year.
“She had a phenomenal year,” Prokup said. “She had us in every game. She averaged over 10 strikeouts per game. She had two no-hitters and two perfect games. She performed beyond even what I expected from her.”
Schweickert, an Illinois Coaches Association First-Team All-State selection, continued her dominance in the postseason and performed better and better as the games became bigger.
She allowed three earned runs on seven hits with 21 strikeouts and seven walks in the regional before surrendering just two hits with 30 strikeouts and four walks in 17 shutout innings in the sectional.
In the super-sectional, Schweickert surrendered one run on one hit with 14 strikeouts, three walks and a hit batter while battling a blister on her pitching hand.
“It’s always a team effort, but I’ve said this in the past, we were going to go as far as she took us,” Prokup said. “You need to have a pitcher. With her, that’s one big piece that’s already taken care of, so all we had to do was play a little defense and score a few runs. This team had confidence she was going to be able to hold teams to a couple runs tops. They knew we were going to be in every game, so they knew they just had to do their part.”
The result was unprecedented success for St. Bede female athletics with a fourth-place finish in Class 2A.
“It’s awesome that I’m definitely going to be remembered along with the rest of the team for making it to state,” said Schweickert, who will play next season at NCAA Division II Lewis University. “It’s a great feeling to know that everyone believed in me, that they trusted me to do my job and get us as far as we could go.”
It was all thanks to how far Schweickert has come.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.