Teams need as much consistency, passion, and toughness as they can get, and No. 2 Benet needs to look no further for those qualities than to its outfield grass.
On a team loaded with infielders slated to play college softball, the Redwings simply would not be the same without the outfield trio of Shannon Mills, Jessica Brown, and Megan Stoppelman.
“They are without a doubt in the shadow of our infielders, catcher, and pitchers,” Benet coach Jerry Schilf said. “But they are critical to our success.”
Brown is Benet’s nerve center in center field, a steady presence guiding the outfield ship. The junior is a .300 hitter on a team full of players hitting .500, but that average isn’t everything.
“Kids tend to be judged based on their hitting but she has proven her worth to her teammates by being a great defensive player,” Schilf said.
Mills, a senior left fielder, sees Brown’s skill and consistency up close every day.
“Jess is such a solid defender,” Mills said. “She tracks the ball so well and she’s confident in her outfield skills. She’s a junior but she plays like a senior.”
The value of Mills’ positive energy is incalculable for Benet. Early on a Saturday morning, following Benet’s recent prom on a Friday night, the Redwings straggled onto a bus for a 60-mile ride to Bishop-McNamara for a doubleheader.
As the Redwings were still wiping the sleep from their eyes, Mills was already in fifth gear.
“It’s 6:15 in the morning and she’s blasting her music, she’s got her coffee. There’s never a dull moment with her,” Brown said. “She always has a positive attitude, and she’s always the one cheering everyone up.”
Mills was just being Mills.
“I wasn’t thrilled getting home late and then being up at 5:30 but I tried to make the best out of a bad situation,’” Mills said. “So I decided that turning the music up loud, and dancing and singing, were the best ways to start the morning. I think I scared coach a little bit.”
The sophomore Stoppelman provided a supreme example of toughness in a recent game after diving for a ball and severely spraining her wrist.
“We all rushed over to her and the coaches came out,” Mills said. “But she refused to leave the game. It was ridiculous.”
The story has a scripted ending. With a swollen and aching wrist, Stoppelman essentially hit a one-handed home run in the game. She has since missed nearly two weeks due to the injury.
“I thought I was well enough to finish out the game,” Stoppelman said. “I don’t know how that home run happened, really. I was just trying not to let go of the bat.”
Benet has an all-star cast on the infield dirt, but its steady, passionate, and tough outfielders have helped carry the Redwings to a 27-1 record.
“Collectively, they’ve done a great job,” Schilf said. “They’ve been nothing but dependable for us and they each add something that we need to be successful.”