Lincoln High sophomore catcher Stacy Mayer and her teammates will face Coventry in the Division I softball championship on Sunday at Rhode Island College. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
LINCOLN â€“ It was pretty easy to see the frustration mounting inside Lincoln High senior righthander Lindsay Mayer during the R.I. Division I Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament winners' bracket final against always-gutsy Coventry on Saturday.
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She'd fire a fastball, riseball or screwball, one she thought for sure would be called a strike at the belt or knees. Yet, when it wasn't, it would bug her to no end, as it would most All-State whirlers.
Perhaps that's why â€“ even after the Lions held on to a tough 3-1 victory over the Knotty Oakers at Rhode Island College, and in the process earned a berth in the D-I championship tilt for the second consecutive year â€“ she finished with a season-high five walks.
A primary reason Lindsay got through it? Her kid sister, sophomore Stacy, serves as her battery-mate, as she has all season. Her more-than-familiar backstop undoubtedly knows how to push the right buttons to calm her â€“ or, in certain instances, reinvigorate her.
In the end, the elder Mayer fanned three of her half-dozen batters in the latter three frames, and the Lions utilized a fantastic catch in right by a fellow tri-captain, junior Casie Beauchemin, to ignite a wild, tilt-ending double play.
â€śI really like catching Lindsay; it's not weird or anything because I always used to catch her, from the time she was in seventh grade and I was in fifth,â€ť she noted. â€śI've been doing it for so long, it's nothing new. I know what she's thinking, and she knows what I'm thinking.â€ť
Stacy actually played second base during Lincoln's 2012 run to the state crown, one that sealed a flawless 22-0 campaign. She did so because head coach Dick Ryan desperately needed someone to fill the hole, and also because he had then-senior Allie Dzialo behind the plate.
â€śWith me catching her this season, I think it's more special because we're involved in every play together; we have to rely on each other every game,â€ť Stacy explained. â€śIf she's not having a good day, she has to rely on me to pick her up, make her feel good again. I try to 'buy' more strikes by framing her pitches, or just by talking to her.
â€śAnd, if I'm not having a great day, she has to help me out, maybe with more control or just a few words,â€ť she added. â€śWe have to communicate a lot, like all pitchers and catchers do. We also talk in the dugout, discuss her frustration with some calls, but we'll just change up the calls, mix in some of her other pitches.â€ť
Lindsay claims that, outside of the diamond, the two siblings do indeed bicker. Gee, there's a stunning revelation.
â€śOh, yeah, we're typical sisters,â€ť she laughed. â€śWe fight a lot, mostly about clothes, they lead the way. We also fight about makeup; we'll have some issues at home, and there are times we can't stand each other, but we also love each other.
â€śI'd say that no matter what happens outside of softball â€“ because I know we'll always be close, even if she steals a sweater â€“ when it's game time, we'll forget about everything and focus on the main goal: Winning,â€ť she added. â€śI'm a little surprised how well she carries herself. She doesn't seem like a sophomore to me. I consider her to be the same kind of player and the same age as I am.
â€śWhen I'm pitching, I don't really think about Stacy being my sister; I'm just throwing to a teammate. On the other hand, she knows the kind of person I am. If she knows I'm stressed out, she knows what will make me laugh, so she'll crack jokes.
â€śIn that game against Coventry, she understood what I was going through just by looking at me. She didn't say anything to me; she didn't have to. I could tell she was doing everything she could to help me with her framing (pitches). I just knew.â€ť
Ryan has so much faith in his duet, he allows the underclassmen to choose what his standout and tri-captain will throw in virtually all situations.
â€śStacy played second for me all of last year; she only caught her sister maybe an inning or two,â€ť Ryan stated. â€śBut she knew before the season started she was going to catch Lindsay. She's a catcher by trade, but she's such a good athlete, even as a freshman, I put her at second because I needed her there.
â€śThen again, she'd play anywhere I asked her to because that's the kind of kid she is,â€ť he continued. â€śShe's a great kid like that. If I asked her to play right field, she'd do it with a smile on her face. Whatever it takes to help the team, she'll do it.
â€śYou know, she hasn't given up a stolen base all season? I don't know in how many attempts (Stacy claimed there were nine), but she's played phenomenal all year. Last season, my daughter (Kelly) called all of the pitches, but I put those calls in Stacy's hands because I knew she could handle the responsibility. She's been a tremendous asset for us, and for Lindsay.â€ť
If there's one thing the tandem doesn't address, it's the possibility of snatching another state championship. If the Lions do, they would close their two seasons with a remarkable 43 straight wins â€“ all without suffering a defeat.
For Lindsay, a triumph would give her a two-year total of 36-0.
â€śWe haven't really talked about it; I know we've both thought about it, but we don't want to jinx anything,â€ť Stacy offered. â€śWe don't want to get too ahead of ourselves, and we know the team doesn't, either. Coach always says to take it one game at a time.â€ť
When asked it the two share any superstitions, Stacy chuckled, â€śSure. When we're heading out to the field, neither of us will step on the foul lines, and we always listen to the same music during pre-game warm-ups.
â€śIf we win, the whole team will sing this song we made up as our bus starts to come close to school,â€ť she continued. â€śWe've been doing that every game since the beginning of last year. We do it for good luck and to help us carry the momentum (and the streak) into the next game.â€ť
The younger Mayer also was asked what song it was, but she indicated that could spell bad luck.
â€śI really like calling her pitches; I know what she wants to throw and when,â€ť she said. â€śAt times, though, if it's a really important situation, I'll look to the dugout.â€ť
Top-seeded Lincoln is now (and still) preparing to take on Coventry in the title game, set for Sunday afternoon at RIC. With the past few days' fickle weather, the Lions more or less have been placed on standby.
â€śIf we do (win another title), it would definitely be as exciting as last year, especially since we'd have done it two years in a row,â€ť Stacey mentioned. â€śAgain, I don't want to get too far ahead, but Lincoln had never won (a softball championship) before, so if we did it two straight years, it would be thrilling.
â€śI could say I did it my first two years of high school, and that would be amazing!â€ť
Lindsay indicated one final victory would mean the world to her, the reason being she would've shared in it with Stacy her receiver.
â€śI think that would make it a lot more special; not only would I have closed my career with two straight titles, both undefeated, but Stacy would've been there with me the whole way,â€ť she said. â€śShe would've experienced it herself.â€ť
Stacy admitted she'll miss catching her sister next spring, with Lindsay moving on to play at the University of Virginia come August.
â€śThis will be our last game together,â€ť she said. â€śI'll miss the times we've had, but I may not be catching next season. Coach told me I could be at short because (senior tri-captain) Emily (Bouthillette) is graduating, too, and she'll be off to Bryant (University).
â€śThis has been a really fun season, but we still have one more game to go.â€ť
When told what her sister had said, Lindsay responded: â€śA big thing is my family is looking at Stacy going to UVA so we can play together. We'll see what happens, but I'd like that a lot because I know the type of player she is. Her whole heart is in every game. She wants to win, just like me.â€ť