Junior owns the softball mound

Brandon Mankoff, Sports Editor

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Junior Lauren Mendelson throws a pitch during a home game against Maine West on April 27. Mendelson leads the varsity softball team with 8 wins and 137 strikeouts in 142 innings pitched, as of May 15. Photo by Sydney Stumme-Berg

During a home game on May 4, the softball team played 14 innings against Vernon Hills but had to stop the game when the score was 3-3 due to the darkness. The game was continued on May 12 with two more innings, resulting in a 16-inning game. Junior Lauren Mendelson pitched the entire game, only letting up three runs, resulting in a 4-3 win.

Mendelson ended the game with 13 strikeouts, a season high.

“My arm was fine directly after [the first 14 innings], but the next morning I was a little sore because I haven’t ever pitched that many innings in one game,” Mendelson said.

Mendelson first started playing softball when she was 5 years old. When she was a freshman, she switched between varsity and junior varsity until she was permanently moved up to varsity during her sophomore season.

Mendelson said when she was a freshman switching off between varsity and junior varsity, she was shocked to hear her name called by softball head coach Jenn Mau at the 2015 Spring Sports Awards night to receive the MVP trophy.

  “I was really surprised, … [because] freshman year I was kind of on two teams,” said Mendelson. “I was on JV and varsity, so I was sitting with the JV girls [at the ceremony] because I was friends with them [and] because those were the girls I had been playing with for so long. … Everyone around me was freaking out.”

According to Mau, Mendelson pitches every game for the team now and can always be counted on by her teammates.

“They know we are lucky to have her because on the mound, with the presence that she has, making the plays that she makes, … [she is always] getting people out,” said Mau. “So she is very good at what she does.”

Mendelson currently has 137 strikeouts for the season, as of May 15.

Senior Molly Mulvihill, a team captain, said she believes Mendelson throws the hardest in their conference and is a very reliable pitcher.

“[One day] we had a tournament, and she had to play four games in one day,” said Mulvihill. “[She] really carries the team on her back.”

Mau said Mendelson not only helps out the team with her pitching but also hits very well.

“Everyday she comes out, competes, does well and is consistent,” said Mau. “[She] is also a very good hitter, so we want her in the lineup on offense or on defense. Our joke on the team is that I can’t ever yell at Lauren.”

Mendelson’s talent and work ethic have made her teammates look up to her, according to Mau.

“Lauren is a silent leader,” said Mau. “[She] has a very good presence about her, and when she’s out there, she makes a lot of plays and feels her position very well. She doesn’t get upset at anyone for anybody’s mistakes, she doesn’t get upset with herself, she stays very composed and always powers through it.”

Senior Sophia Norberg, who is another team captain, said Mendelson is constantly striving to become better.

“She is always taking lessons and asking questions and trying to figure out what she can do to improve,” Norberg said.

During games, Mendelson said she has a few rituals before she goes out to pitch.

“Before I walk onto the mound before every pitch, I dust off the mound,” said Mendelson. “One time we played at Leyden, and it’s, like, the Rosemont stadium where the professional softball [players] play, and it’s a turf field, which means there is no dirt. Even then, I was, like, shaking off the mound, and a girl on my team was making fun of me because I still had to dust off the mound with my foot even though there was nothing there.”

Mendelson said she appreciates her larger role on the team more now as opposed to when she was a freshman.

“I feel like as a freshman I was just kind of there to pitch, but now I am there to play more,” said Mendelson. “[I] feel like I am more of a member of the team now instead of just sort of like being there, especially because I know all of the girls.”

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Junior owns the softball mound