Era ends with graduation of St. Al stars

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Candice Park, left, and Laura Beth Lyons will graduate on Saturday, leaving a gaping hole on the Lady Flashes’ softball team.(Sean P. Murphy The Vicksburg Post)

[5/12/04]An era has come to a close in the St. Aloysius softball program with the graduation of ace pitcher Laura Beth Lyons and catcher Candice Park.

“They’ve definitely left a legacy for the other kids to follow,” St. Al coach Gene Rogillio said. “I’m going to miss those two. You can’t put a price on what they’ve accomplished.”

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The two were the only players left from the first-ever Lady Flashes fast-pitch team, and they have been starters since day one.

Lyons began to pitch during her freshman year after the injury of Allison Hearn, and Park stepped in the next year to take over the catcher spot vacated by Keiko Booth.

“LB and I had played together before,” Park said. “But 10th grade was when we really became a team.”

The combination proved to be lethal. Lyons and Park have led St. Al to three playoff appearances, two division titles, and a second-place finish in the South State championship.

The two are not just a team on the field, however, and they agree that their closeness has helped their teamwork during the games.

“Our friendship helped us work together during the games,” Park said. “And without that, we wouldn’t have made it.”

This season, Lyons and Park had an even bigger responsibility as leaders, because the majority of the team was made up of underclassmen.

“We had to really step up this year,” Lyons said. “Most of the players this year had never played much softball before, and we were the only upperclassmen with much experience.”

Though they missed the playoffs this year, St. Al did manage to upset crosstown rival Warren Central in the Lady Vikes Invitational. St. Al had never beaten WC before, and it gave the team much-needed confidence after a shaky start to their season.

“That really boosted up our team,” Park said. “I think we inspired them to believe that they could do it, that they had beaten Warren Central.”

They agree, though, that they never would have been able to exhibit the leadership they did if they hadn’t had players teaching them when they were younger.

“They taught us how to communicate with other players and open up to people younger than you,” Lyons said. “They showed us how to treat people and work together.”

Though they have both had several offers to play at junior colleges, neither is sure of her college plans yet.

“I’ve always wanted to go to a four-year college, and that’s what I’m going to do,” Lyons said. “I might walk-on somewhere, but I’m just not sure.”

Though their graduation has left a gaping hole in the St. Al softball program, Rogillio sees potential in his young team.

He plans to put rising junior Mary Myers Franco behind the plate and sophomore Sarah Kerut on the mound, both of whom saw a decent amount of playing time this season.

“You don’t replace kids like that,” Rogillio said. “I’m going to put two more kids in their positions who don’t have as much experience as those two have had by the end of their senior year.”