After five seasons on the varsity team, it turns out Caitie Benoit saved her best season for last.
The Mount Greylock senior was an offensive and defensive magician this season, on her way to the All-Transcript MVP.
The catcher led the team in every offensive category in a season where she needed to change her approach at the plate. After five years of torturing county teams, she started seeing a different style of pitching.
"A lot of teams were throwing her outside and if she swung, she fouled it off or grounded to third base," Greylock coach June Blake said. "We worked a lot on being able to hit to the opposite side of the field, and just laying off the pitches and not helping them out any. We had the offensive power in our lineup where she didn't have to do it all."
It took some time, but Benoit successfully changed her approach.
She finished the year with a .537 batting average and drove in 21 runs, while hitting four homers and walking 19 times. Even when the opposition took the bat out of her hands, her teammates backed her up. Benoit led the team in runs scored with 29.
By the end of the season, she was able keep the ball in play and used the opposite field consistently to get on base.
"At the beginning of the season, it was tough to hit the outside pitch," Benoit said. "But I worked on it, and stayed late after a few practices. As the season went along, I was able to hit it to right field, which is something I always struggled with."
Benoit was also a defensive force for the Mounties. The catcher had only two baserunners successfully steal against her this season.
"I may not be the fastest on the bases, but behind the plate, I'm able to move my feet fast enough to get up and make a good throw down," Benoit said. "I have a decent arm so that plays to my advantage."
She also has very good mechanics when she winds up to throw to second base.
"When I was younger, I was a baseball pitcher," Benoit said. "That helps with my mechanics."
Having a solid catcher made life a little easier for the coaching staff.
"Defensively, she had such a great arm behind the plate, we never had to worry about teams running on us," Blake said. "That's huge having someone behind the plate that's such a threat teams won't even think about running."
Benoit was a large part of the Mounties turnaround this season. Last year, Greylock won just five games. This season, the Mounties went 15-5 and earned the No. 4 seed in the Western Massachusetts Division II tournament.
"She was a great leader for us, and a great motivator for the younger players," Blake said. "She was a great role model with her dedication and motivation to the program."
She was also good with first-year starting pitcher Heather Tomkowicz.
"She did a great job with Heather this year," Blake said. "She was just able to reel her in when she had too, and was a great confidence boost for Heather on the mound. It being Heather's first year on the varsity mound, Caitie with her experience behind the plate meant a lot."
Having an experienced catcher was relaxing for Tomkowicz.
"Since it was my first year on varsity, it was nice knowing I had her behind the plate to help me out and calm my nerves at the beginning," Tomkowicz said. "And I knew she was going to catch pretty much everything."
Benoit certainly was full of experience heading into the season. She has been the starting catcher since her eighth grade season.
"Being a captain for four years, I'm hoping I really left my mark on how to be a good leader," Benoit said. "I hope I helped everyone grow both on and off the field."
She left a mark on her young starting pitcher.
"She was a really great leader for our team this year," Tomkowicz said. "She instilled a lot of confidence in our team and always kept a level head."