Sports

Clare setting a winning tone at Beamer

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Jade Clare is from the old school.

Her philosophy on softball, as well life in general, is pretty simple — talent will only get you so far and hard work is the way to go.

The hard work the senior catcher at Todd Beamer High School has put in over the years is paying off big time. Clare has been a huge reason why the Titans are smack dab in the middle of the playoff race in the South Puget Sound League South Division just two years after the program finished 1-19 overall. Beamer entered yesterday’s game with Spanaway Lake with a 7-5 record — good for sixth place in the South, one loss back of Curtis. The top-five teams advance into the playoffs.

“She’s very talented to start with,” said Beamer head coach Stu Prince. “But I’ve never coached a player who has worked as hard as she has. She’s successful in school for a lot of the reasons why she’s successful on the field. She just works harder than everybody. You wish you had a whole bunch like her. It’s just a treat for a coach to have one like that.”

That was never more evident than last week when the Federal Way school district was on spring break. The Titans were scheduled to play a 4 p.m. game and Prince arrived at the field around 11:30 a.m. to start getting things organized.

“I saw Jade walking out onto the field and she told me she had just done an hour of weight training,” Prince said. “She is so dedicated. She goes to the (batting) cages three or four times a week.”

The cage work is paying dividends. Clare is currently second in the South Puget Sound League with a robust .525 batting average and leading the division with six doubles, four triples, a slugging percentage of 1.025 and 18 RBIs.

And she isn’t a one-year wonder, either. Clare led the SPSL South with a .492 average a season ago and knocked in 18 runs, had 11 doubles and a slugging percentage of .723.

“I just love playing softball,” Clare said. “It’s such a good game where you fail so many times that when you don’t fail it’s such a good feeling.”

But hitting isn’t the only thing Clare does well on the softball field. She has also developed into one of the best defensive catchers in the area.

“Nobody runs against us,” Prince said. “If they do, she throws them out. She makes pitchers better. She does a great job of keeping the ball in front of her and pitchers don’t have to be perfect all the time.”

Clare’s love of softball will continue for the next four seasons. She has already signed a national letter of intent to catch across the country at Stony Brook College in Long Island, N.Y.

The Seawolves play in the America East Conference and are currently 18-18 overall this season. Stony Brook played in the America East championship game last year.

“It had kind of a homey feel and I got along with the girls,” Clare said. “It’s a long way from home, but it just felt right.”

Clare also took visits to Monmouth University in New Jersey and Queens University in North Carolina.

“Jade is the consummate catcher — smart, quick, strong and a leader from behind the plate,” said Stony Brook head coach Megan Bryant. “She throws well, knows the game and loves to compete. Jade has a great work ethic and knows what it takes to be successful. Her experience will prepare her well for the college game and she will be an exciting player to watch.”

Clare has accomplished all the offensive success during the last two seasons with a big target on her back. When teams face Beamer, Clare is the one player opposing coaches don’t want to beat them.

“The good teams really won’t even pitch to her,” Prince said. “They would rather make her chase something than pitch to her at all.”

But avoiding Clare has made the players around her better and the Titans have developed into a legitimate threat in the SPSL South, game in and game out. Something that wasn’t happening in 2004 when Beamer struggled to one win.

“When we started the program two years ago, it was pretty realistic when I saw the kids on the team that we weren’t going to win many games,” Prince said. “We were just young. I told them from day one that we could throw wins and losses out the window. We are just going to develop players and get the program better.”

Things got better last year when the Titans finished 8-12 in the SPSL South and were competitive with most teams in the league. Beamer finished the season with six wins in its last eight games.

“It is fun to watch the program develop,” Clare said. “We would really like to make the playoffs.”

“She’s a big reason why the program is winning games,” Prince said. “She sets the tone and other players have picked up on that.

“She is going to leave a nice little legacy in our program.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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