TREMONT — Six years ago, a group of grade-school girls painted their faces maroon and cheered as Tremont played for the Class 2A state championship.
Those young spectators now are the ones sporting the Tremont softball uniforms, encouraging their teammates and looking to better that runner-up finish from 2013. Hannah Nguyen recalls a half-dozen years later being in the stands at EastSide Centre and still praises those ex-Turks.
“I have looked up to those former Tremont softball players forever,” the senior catcher said following Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over Heart of Illinois Conference visitor Fieldcrest.
That next generation of Turks may have already begun idolizing Nguyen, who is the lone senior for Tremont (12-2, 5-0).
Nguyen has been on a monstrous tear at the plate through the first 14 games. She’s hitting .543 with a team-high 25 hits to go with two doubles, two triples, seven home runs and 33 RBIs.
However, Nguyen battled through knee issues last season following a concussion her sophomore year. She’s finally healthy and producing.
“Honestly, I just stay calm and just stay confident in myself,” Nguyen said when asked about her approach at the plate.
Tremont coach Brian Patterson boasts an underclass heavy team — two freshmen (Jenna Getz and Madison Edwards) and three sophomores (Abigail Getz, Addison Lane and Paige McAllister) — in the starting lineup. But that hasn’t made one difference.
Those players made it a priority to play a high-level summer travel schedule, and it has paid off. The Turks are hitting .370 as a team with 47 extra-base hits, including 17 home runs, and averaging 10 runs game.
“Our bats — we’re probably one of the best-hitting teams around and we work a lot in the offseason on that,” Patterson said.
Junior Hillary Mason (.413) trails only Nguyen in batting average with Edwards (.412), McAllister (.409, four home runs, 10 RBIs) and Abigail Getz (.367, 11 RBIs) and Jenna Getz (.355) following. Junior Abby Leber (.326) is second on the team in RBI (21s) and has hit three home runs with five doubles.
“They are very dedicated as a group together,” Patterson said. “They’ve bought in. They have changed our whole philosophy and challenged themselves throughout the summer, in the offseason and come back with just a great attitude.”
McAllister has been the staff ace following a stellar freshman campaign. Her fastball sits near mid-60 mph, and she posted a 12-strikeout, two-hit effort against the Knights.
She’s 8-1 with 113 strikeouts, only 14 walks and a 0.72 ERA in 58 innings.
“What drives me the most is more of my want to play for the game and it comes from my teammates, too,” McAllister said. “We help each other. We get each other excited, so that’s part of it — coming out and wanting to win as a team.”
Recollections of those 2013 state finals game remain fresh within McAllister’s memory.
New memories, though, were nearly made a season ago. The Turks were up a pair of runs in the regional finals before losing 5-2 to the eventual 2A state champs Taylor Ridge Rockridge.
“It definitely gives us more of a drive to do better … gives us something to look forward to,” McAllister said.
Adam Duvall can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.