By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– Jade Beaumont remembered dropping back to the center field fence against Philomath her sophomore year on April 19, 2019 and chasing after a fly-ball against the two-time Oregon West Conference. She went up and caught it as she approached the fence and the deep part of Center Field.
“Nobody thought I was going to catch it, even I didn’t quite know if I had it. After I caught the ball my assistant coach called timeout and came out to talk to me because I hit my elbow on the fence pretty hard and I was holding it for a minute,” Beaumont described. “I told him I was fine and didn’t need it but he came out anyways and told me to just take a break for a second because that was one heck of a catch.
“Then he gave me a fist bump and went back. I just remember having all this adrenaline and this huge smile across my face and I’ll probably never forget that moment.”
Though the Warriors would take the battle that day, 10-5, the catch was part of an incredible season that saw the Eagles softball squad reach the 4A State postseason for the first time since 2014. The squad went from 1-23 the following year and slowly made a journey back going 17-8 overall and finished third in the OWC.
Stayton was one of five squads that made the postseason that year, joining Philomath, Sweet Home, Cascade and Newport that reached at least a play-in game.
“Just getting in those game situations and reps. Some of the teams that we are playing are really good and have a lot of skill and it pushes us to work harder during practice and in those games,” said Beaumont, who was a first-team OWC Outfielder as a sophomore. “It has been fun playing at Stayton and watching the program get better every year, it really sucks that we lost our season last year because I think it would’ve been our best year and that we could’ve made it pretty far.”
The Eagles had three returning Seniors on their 2020 team that were starting, Sydney Maurer, Emma Heuberger and Alysha Sims as they hoped to build off of reaching the first round of the 4A State Playoffs. Leaving a big gap for those returning in the infield and in the pitching circle.
“Our whole team was really excited about last year, we knew the skill level that we had and what players were capable of and getting the news that we weren’t going to have our season and losing those two seniors who played a big role on the team really sucked,” Beaumont said. “It kind of felt like the rug was getting pulled out from under us since it all happened in one week.”
But Beaumont made up for those lost reps from the Spring by playing in some travel ball games. Though it didn’t feel the same, it did give her an opportunity to improve moving into her Senior Season in Mid-April.
“As a player I have evolved skill wise and understanding. I would like to say I am at least a decent player and I play better every year,” Beaumont said of her game. “My understanding of the game and what to do in certain situations has come a long way from my freshman year. I would like to think that I do work hard and that I cover the outfield pretty well.”
In the Fall, with the NW Vandals 18U-Dippel team, Beaumont had a chance to play with her longtime friend in Cedella Ritchie. Giving her a moment of normalcy in the time of uncertainty.
“Being able to play with Cedella this fall was still really fun. We have been friends for a long time and never been on the same team except for high school so it kind of brings both those relationships closer,” Beaumont said of Ritchie. “It was something that felt normal in this time of unknown. I think I will appreciate the little things more and have more fun with it.”
It’s going to be a weird Senior Year however for sure for girls like Beaumont and Ritchie as they’ll have a new Head Coach in Bill Baxter. Baxter is taking over the program from longtime Head Coach Jeff Silbernagel, but the goal is to make the most of it with a solid core of returners expected to come back to the program in 2021 and stepping up as a leader for Beaumont.
“It was weird hearing that Jeff was no longer a coach but I do really like our new coach and I am excited to see how the season will go. I’m excited this year because I want to be a player that is a good role model for the new girls coming in and just make it fun for them but also be someone they can kind of look up to,” Beaumont said. “I think keeping a positive attitude, prevailing in difficult situations, always lifting other players up and making sure that they know we still need them in the game is a good start to being a leader.
“As season goes on and we get the feeling of all of it and start playing with each other I am sure more will come up but for right now we have just got to stay positive and work with what we’ve got.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald