Pitcher Behnken helps keep Homestead softball team in North Shore lead
Despite its youth, Highlanders start week 6-0
Mequon - Her back is feeling better, her college plans are set, but it is a different situation for Homestead senior softball pitcher Rachel Behnken as the 6-0 Highlanders look to reach back and claim the North Shore Conference title that Germantown snagged away from them last season.
She, senior outfielder Hannah Young and junior infielder Andria Savitch are virtually the last holdovers from the wonderful state runner-up run of 2010.
"It's been fun so far," Behnken said, as the Highlanders prepared for a big week, including challenging their old rivals Germantown on Tuesday (see Mequon NOW.com for details). "It's going to be a good season, and Hannah and I (and Andria) should be leaders. People should look up to us."
They need to, as veteran coach Dave Keel is incorporating a lineup that includes three freshmen and a sophomore.
Bouncing back from injury
"We're off to a good start," he said, "but we still have an awful lot of work to do. I'm pleased with how hard we're competing in conference, but it's good to have someone like Rachel back. She's pitching very well and really good things happen for us when she's on."
Behnken had a substandard junior year as she was still recovering from lower back stress fracture. She couldn't get in a much of her off-season training regimen as a result and so she felt that her play suffered.
This past off-season, she had no such problems. It's evidenced by the 12 strikeout performance in a win over Nicolet and a 10 strikeout effort in a victory over Grafton. She has a capable backup this year as freshman Carly Schulz has also earned conference wins off the hill.
"It's been great so far," Behnken said. "The young kids are learning so much."
The Highlanders have beaten Nicolet (6-0), Port Washington (13-1), Cedarburg (11-1), Milwaukee Lutheran (10-0), Grafton (4-2) and Whitefish Bay (4-1).
Homestead is at Nicolet at 4:30 p.m. Thursday before engaging in some serious nonconference competition Saturday at defending state champion Stevens Point.
The starting lineup for the Highlanders includes Behnken, a three-year starter, on the mound, Young in center field, Savitch at second base, junior Rachel Wiedenhoeft in left field, senior Emily Sweet at third base, and senior Megan Bailey at catcher. Bailey had formally been an outfielder.
The freshmen in the lineup are pitcher and right fielder Schulz, Behnken's shortstop sister, Hannah, and utility player Meggi Lampen. The new sophomore is first baseman Sydney Beckers. Keel said that senior designated player Lauren Krehmeyer has also been doing a great job.
"We're not very experienced but we are learning fast," said Keel.
Making it important to have a solid veteran on the mound.
"I'm glad we can lean on her in tough situations," Keel said of Rachel Behnken. "When we struggle, she can get us out of a situation quickly."
And a healthy Behnken is expecting much of herself. She said her rise ball is working very well now and that she has worked hard on the accuracy of her change-up. She will head to Bradley University to enter its nursing program. High school softball will be the last of the game for her.
"Junior year was rough," she said, "but I'm going to make the best of this season. Try to bear down and get the job done every night. … We know the competition is going to be intense and we're looking forward to it. Everything is back to normal."
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