COLUMBIA — First there were 15. Then there were 12. Then, nine.
Two years ago, Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School baseball coach Mike Johnson needed players. Injuries had depleted his squad. Off-field issues forced another few players off the roster. In dire straights, Johnson called in a ringer: his manager, Kelsey Bequette.
Bequette, who played softball for Tolton, was taking batting practice after the rest of the varsity team had taken its turn when Johnson asked her if she wanted to suit up for the next game. Absolutely, she told him.
She hit in the middle of the batting order.
When Bequette got a hit and RBI, Johnson kept the ball. He said he keeps it in his office at school. She sacrifice bunted a few innings later, and the rest of the team greeted her at the front of the dugout.
Bequette appeared in three games during the first season for the Trailblazers’ baseball program. Tolton won all three. She’s the only player in school’s history to finish her career in a varsity sport “undefeated,” brags the school’s chaplain, Fr. Mike Coleman.
Tuesday, she was honored on senior night with four other classmates for their service to the program.
She’ll attend Saint Louis University next year as a part of its six-year physical therapy doctorate program.
“I’ve never had a manager be as a part of a team,” Johnson said. “Kelsey is practically part of the family for me. … I honestly don’t know what I’ll do without her next year.”
For the past two seasons, ones when Tolton has fielded robust varsity and junior varsity teams, Bequette has kept statistics for the Trailblazers, helped compile scouting reports and jumped in during practice drills.
“It’s the same mental game, so the ball size was the biggest difference,” she said. There’s also the obvious: baseball pitchers throw overhand, while softball pitchers throw underhand.
Aside from that, Bequette was all game. She said teammates were vocal about how happy they were with her not just being part of the team but seeing her name on the lineup card.
“They had my back,” she said. “It meant a lot.”
But which sport is harder? Her baseball teammates might not like her answer. It’s decidedly softball, she said. The game is faster-paced, pitchers are closer to hitters and bases are 60 feet away rather than 90.
Still, she said, getting that experience on the other diamond is something she’ll hold onto, just like celebrating the growth of Tolton’s baseball program.
“Not a lot of girls get to say they played for their high school baseball team,” she said.
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.