Van Softball Pitchers Filling Big Cleats

In baseball and softball, there is no more important position than pitcher. But by the same token, there's only one pitchers mound on the diamond, so up-and-coming players sometimes have to earn their spot on the hill.

For two pitchers in Van, their time is now.

Back at work on the softball diamond, the Van Lady Vandals are trying to take the next step. Last year's team went to the regional finals led by pitcher Jessica Hunt. This year, two Lady Vandals have had to step into that hole in the lineup, and haven't looked back.

"I had to wait my chance to pitch," Cara Hulmer says. "Jessica was awesome, and we've had plenty of good pitchers come through Van."

"I'm ready to step up."

Cara is 20-3 this year, sophomore Trish Crocker is 3-0 with three saves. Both also play at shortstop when they're not sitting them down from the rubber.

"From being a freshman, and seeing Jessica and Ashley play and the great leaders they were," Trish says, "It just made me feel like I had to step up and help out."

"When I'm doing my job," Cara says, "It feels like my whole team is going to back me up. Even if I'm not pitching my best, I know my defense is going to take care of it."

The team is on pace again, leading the district, thanks to players stepping up and taking advantage of their chances.

"Kara waited patiently," manager Suzanne Braly says, "And did her job last year at third. I think she stepped in this year and never looked back. I love it when they take those natural, progressive steps and become the ladies they can be and the players they can be."

Reid Kerr ( reporting.