Photo by Bill Roseberry
EA-WR southpaw pitcher Tori Beachum delivers a pitch against Marquette on April 27 at Gordon Moore Park. Beachum has been a stalwart in the circle for the Oilers.
There is no doubt Tori Beachum is key to the East Alton-Wood River Oilers.
“Tori has been pretty much everything to us,” EA-WR head softball coach Dana Emerick said. “Every team needs a centerpiece and she’s been that. She’s front and center in the circle, bats third in our batting order, is a four-year starter, senior, all the things that go with good character and perseverance and just being a great kid along with being a good athlete. What a lot of people don’t talk about is she’s also a high honor roll student, so she’s good in and out of school, which is so important for us.”
All of those attributes have landed the southpaw ace of the Oilers a scholarship to SIUE to continue her softball career after high school. That’s not too shabby to move on to a Division I program that went 43-16 this year and narrowly missed its second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Beachum is the all-time strikeout leader at EA-WR. After Tuesday’s 9-0 win over Hillsboro, Beachum had 745 career strikeouts. She surpassed Amanda Hill to set the new benchmark for the Oilers. Entering Wednesday, Beachum was 13-6 on the season with a 2.02 ERA and 235 strikeouts in 149 innings pitched.
It’s been a roller coaster season for the stout lefty pitcher. EA-WR has a 14-19 record on the season, but enters the Class 2A Roxana Regional as the No. 2 seed at 7 p.m. May 19 against Staunton with a chance for a strong playoff run.
“I myself have had a lot of ups and downs with injuries and stuff, but overall getting through everything it’s been a long ride, but it’s all starting to pay off and it’s been good,” Beachum said.
Maybe the lowest point for Beachum came in an April 27 game against Prairie State Conference rival Marquette Catholic at Gordon Moore Park.
A 1-0 lead mutated into an 8-1 deficit, and then came the top of the sixth. Beachum took a fastball on the right elbow. By the time she reached first base, she was in tears from the pain.
She was immediately lifted for a pinch runner and raced to the hospital for X-rays.
“I thought it was broke,” Beachum said. “It sent a pain all the way down to my wrist and all the way up to my shoulder. I couldn’t even move it and whenever the car took a turn it hurt so bad.”
Emotions flared after Beachum’s departure. Emerick feared the worst, thinking it was broken and Beachum’s prep career was over. He was shaken and had some words with the Marquette bench out of frustration, but it turned out to be all for nothing.
“It hit her in a spot commonly called the crazy bone and there is a lot of pain and numbness when you get hit in that spot,” Emerick said. “That’s what happened and it turned out for the best.”
The scare has revitalized Beachum for the stretch run, thinking her prep career may be done and then learning it was just a bruise and she would be back gave her a second chance at her senior season.
“Oh yeah, it gives me a lot of motivation because now it gives me my whole season to look forward to and I thought it was over,” she said. “I’m just thanking God and now it barely hurts at all.”
With Beachum rejuvenated and the Oilers battle-tested from a formidable schedule, Emerick thinks his squad is ready for what lies ahead. EA-WR has played 3A powers like Waterloo, Highland, Columbia and Marquette, as well as 4A programs Alton and Collinsville.
“Our ups and downs, we’ve had them, but they coincide with our schedule,” Emerick said. “We play a tremendous schedule. We played a double header at Carrollton and they’ve lost three games this year and one of those was to us.
“We wanted to challenge ourselves and sometimes during the season the losses start piling up and I question myself about the wisdom of that ... After facing the Waterloos, Columbias and Collinsvilles, when we see teams our own level it kind of works to our advantage.”
Beachum thinks her team is ready.
“It’s been a lot of inconsistency, but whenever we get our hitting together there’s no stopping us,” she said.
Beachum was third on the team with a .372 batting average entering this week, too. She also had two doubles, two triples and 15 RBIs.
With Beachum in the mix, along with a slew of talented underclassmen, success is attainable for EA-WR.
“Mentally and physically, she’s been the total package for us,” Emerick said.
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