Timeout softball: Leaches remind North Newton coach of relationship with her sister, teammate
By Steve T. Gorches 314-3797 or email@example.com April 25, 2013 6:58PM
North Newton's Allyson Leach on the mound during the Spartans game at Wheeler Monday April 22, 2013. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 29, 2013 7:17AM
Sisters Allyson and Jena Leach stand out on North Newton’s softball team for more than just their ability.
You can’t miss those bright blue helmets — the same shade the Cubs wear.
For those who don’t know, North Newton’s school colors include navy blue, not “Cubbie” blue. But the Leaches say the regular team helmets don’t fit, so they use the helmets from their Cubs Fast Pitch travel team out of Illinois.
The out of place “C” on the front hasn’t carried over any bad luck or curses so far for the sisters or the Spartans, who are sitting around the .500 mark and still in a tight Greater South Shore Conference race despite losing to Wheeler and Bishop Noll this week.
And the Leaches are a big part of the turnaround under coach Amanda Suarez.
Allyson is the senior, who is quiet, but admits she’s getting over that slight character flaw and becoming more of a leader.
“I’m not a very vocal person,” she said. “I try to lead by example and help the freshmen and sophomores.”
One of those sophomores is Jena, who has an admission of her own.
“On the field we get along and go with it, but off the field, it’s a little rough,” Jena said about the sisters having a bit of a rivalry. “But we leave it behind during games.”
Like when the duo teamed up for the Spartans’ only run in a loss at Wheeler earlier this week. Allyson led off the inning with a scalded double. Jena came up next and drove in her big sister with a single up the middle.
Suarez, who is better known by her maiden name of Wendlinger led Hanover Central to the state title in 2004 by tossing a perfect game in the state championship game, couldn’t be happier with how each sister has gotten better in her own role.
“Ally has filled the role of a leader in every possible way,” Suarez said. “She leads the team on and off the field.
“Jena has done an excellent job at first base. This year she is like a whole new player. She started as a freshman last year, but this year you can see the confidence in her.”
And the sisters couldn’t be happier with their coach, who is in her fourth year coaching North Newton.
“My first year was the first time we were over .500 and we’ve gotten better each year,” Allyson said. “We have more younger girls coming from travel ball. It helps knowing we have a coach who played at a high level.”
Jena loves the fact that Suarez is also a younger sister who played on the same high school team as her older sibling, Beth Wendlinger.
“She can relate to us and what goes on between sisters,” Jena said. “She lets Ally and I just go with it.”
Suarez might still be young enough to know what that means. She also sees a lot of herself and Beth in Allyson and Jena.
“Their chemistry on the field is great,” Suarez said. “I love watching them because it reminds me so much of my sister and I playing together. Even personality wise they are similar to my sister and I — Jena is nothing like Ally.
“They have their moments and I have to remind them to ‘play nice.’ If one of them throws hard at the other, the other one is going to throw harder back. Although they are competitive with one another it is all in good fun.”
For that matter, the sibling duos are almost exactly like each other. Beth was the older quiet one, like Allyson, and was the No. 1 pitcher. Amanda was the younger, more talkative one who also pitched, but waited her turn.
“I pitch in travel ball … I might get there (in high school), but there’s no hurry,” Jena said. “I’m fine without it right now.”
Neither sister is fine with losing after the Spartans set a program record for wins last season (20) and reached a sectional final for the first time. The sisters and their teammates want more.