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Madison Scapardine helps Shepard ace Kailey Selvage feast on competition. Best friends, too. ‘Always been like this.’

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Junior catcher Madison Scapardine is resilient for Shepard, and that’s a huge compliment.

Her coach, Kelsey Clifford, doesn’t use that adjective to describe just anyone.

“She’s the type of athlete, I feel like she’s so mature in her game,” Clifford said. “I can give her feedback, and she can handle it and can do something with it. You can tell she really soaks it in.”

You need resiliency at this point of the season, and Scapardine had plenty of that quality Tuesday in a 6-0 victory over the host Vikings in a Class 4A Homewood-Flossmoor Regional semifinal.

Even with a heavy wind blowing in, the setting sun in the face of ace pitcher Kailey Selvage and the threat of big-time storms, Scapardine kept things together for Shepard (23-6).

She helped Selvage, her best friend, throw a two-hitter. The junior right-hander struck out 12 for the Astros (23-6), who will play at 5 p.m. Friday against Lincoln-Way Central for the regional title.

The win enhanced a season that has far exceeded expectations after a rough start, according to Scapardine. That included an 18-8 loss to the Vikings in the first game of the season.

“After going through high school season and then going into summer ball with a new team and then you play other sports throughout the school year, you don’t just keep the chemistry after the last season with people you’re not seeing,” Scapardine said.

Shepard's Kailey Selvage (3) winds up on pitch to Homewood-Flossmoor during the Class 4A Homewood-Flossmoor Regional semifinals in Flossmoor on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)
Shepard’s Kailey Selvage (3) winds up on pitch against the host Vikings during a Class 4A Homewood-Flossmoor Regional semifinal game in Flossmoor on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

H-F (13-15) put runners in scoring position in the third as Analeese Weber singled and took second on a sacrifice bunt. But Selvage got out of the inning with a strikeout and a comebacker.

Selvage was tough again, but you can’t ignore the fact that Scapardine has a lot on her plate when taking the field, especially considering Tuesday’s conditions.

A catcher is essentially an on-the-field coach, not only catching pitches but framing them and positioning the infield based on the situation.

“I think that I focus more on the game,” Scapardine said. “I try not to think about things like that, the wind and stuff. I have to have trust in my players and the fielders and my pitcher.

“They have to trust me and I feel that’s how we all work together — with trust.”

Shepard's Meghan Potenza (8) throws to first for an out against Homewood-Flossmoor during the Class 4A Homewood-Flossmoor Regional semifinals in Flossmoor on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)
Shepard’s Meghan Potenza (8) throws to first base for an out against the host Vikings during a Class 4A Homewood-Flossmoor Regional semifinal game in Flossmoor on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

Of course, it helps when you have such a close bond with your pitcher. The pair began playing softball on the travel circuit before they were 10 years old. They also play volleyball for Shepard.

“We’ve always been like this,” Selvage said, crossing her fingers. “We kind of clicked from day one. I look at her no other way than family.”

That plays into a game like the regional semifinal. Scapardine knows Selvage’s pitches, her movement, her speed, whether she’s rolling along or needs a moment to collect her thoughts.

In other words, pitching and catching shouldn’t necessarily be looked at as individual pursuits.

“Especially if it gets tight, I like to go out there and crack a joke to her or something, something that me and her both get that we can laugh about,” Scapardine.

Shepard's Madison Scapardine looks up on a foul ball from Homewood-Flossmoor during the Class 4A Homewood-Flossmoor Regional semifinals in Flossmoor on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)
Shepard’s Madison Scapardine looks up on a foul ball against the host Vikings during a Class 4A Homewood-Flossmoor Regional semifinal game in Flossmoor on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

For her sophomore year, Scapardine transferred from St. Laurence to Shepard. Part of the reason was being able to play with Selvage and other players that she knows pretty well.

After a regular season that has exceeded expectations, there’s an opportunity for more. By virtue of the position she plays, Scapardine looks at herself as a leader that can get the Astros there.

Friday is the first step.

“I’m not one of those people that yells or be condescending,” she said. “I just kind of say, ‘Come on, you’re fine.’ Not like, ‘What are you doing? How did you drop that ball?’ Get the next one.”

“Remind them of what they are capable of,” Selvage said.

Gregg Voss is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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Gregg Voss , 2024-05-22 16:17:17

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