ST. CHARLES – Even the most long-winded of end-of-season banquets do not include awards as obscure as “quiet MVP.”
Nonetheless, St. Charles East softball coach Kelly Horan doled out that informal honor to junior center fielder Tess Hupe on Wednesday before the Saints’ final practice before shipping off today for East Peoria. The Saints will face Barrington on Friday afternoon in an IHSA Class 4A state semifinal.
“If you have a loud MVP and you have a quiet MVP, she definitely gets the quiet MVP award,” Horan said of Hupe.
Hupe’s humble leadership style, even as she has enjoyed a banner season at the plate and defensively, has been among the many pluses in the Saints’ memorable season.
“I don’t really boss people around at all,” Hupe said. “I really try to stay positive, and I think that’s why some of the younger girls look up to me. … Everyone has a bad day, and it’s just important to keep that person up and keep the positive energy all around.”
Besides, the Saints don’t lack for dugout chatter.
“We have a bunch of girls who like to be loud and outgoing and then we have girls who don’t really say much, and that’s fine – there’s nothing wrong with that,” East senior Olivia Lorenzini said. “And that’s Tess. There are a few girls like that. Tess is quiet but she means business when she comes to play.”
Opponents typically figure that out early.
Hupe hits second in East’s order, behind senior shortstop Lexi Perez, and contributing to a fast start for the Saints is one of Hupe’s priorities. The speedy, left-handed hitter counts many successful slaps and bunts among her 44 hits on the season. Hupe is batting .361 and has scored 33 runs, trailing only Perez (39) and Kate Peterburs (35) in East’s potent lineup.
“When we have me and Lexi on, I think that’s unstoppable to a lot of teams because that’s a lot of speed on the bases and no outs,” Hupe said. “Starting off a game like that is really powerful. And if she doesn’t get on, I just know it’s my job to get on base any way I can, if that’s a walk, a hit – anything.”
Defensively, Horan credits Hupe for anchoring a Saints outfield that also includes freshman Katie Kolb in left field and Lorenzini in right.
“You definitely need a captain in the outfield,” Horan said. “She’s got a senior over in right field and a freshman in left field. Making that a cohesive unit has been very important.”
The Saints finished last season a respectable 20-13-1, but were nowhere near the juggernaut they’ve become this spring.
Hupe said beating some of the higher-profile Upstate Eight Conference teams early this season emboldened her that East could make what is its second downstate appearance in program history.
“I think it was when we started beating teams like Bartlett and Lake Park, teams that we couldn’t quite beat last year but this year we just pushed through that, and we got the extra hit,” Hupe said. “I think it just showed we have the heart that we didn’t have last year and the ability and the belief.”
The Saints will need all of that – and maybe more – to handle a veteran Barrington team that owns the best record in the state at 35-1. The Fillies’ lone setback came in 15 innings, a 3-2 loss to Marengo as part of a doubleheader split on April 20.
“They play some good teams and we play some good teams but I’ll throw our Upstate Eight Conference schedule and our nonconference schedule up against anybody,” Horan said. “Other than the teams in the Upstate Eight, I don’t know if anybody is comparable to the schedule that we play.”
IHSA Class 4A Softball State Finals
Friday's semifinals at EastSide Centre in East Peoria
St. Charles East (32-5) vs. Barrington (35-1), 3 p.m.
York (23-14) vs. Minooka (21-8), 5:30 p.m.
Third-place game at 3 p.m. Saturday; championship game 5:30 p.m. Saturday
Of note: Barrington senior Loren Krzysko enters the weekend with a whopping 40 extra base hits, including 18 home runs. … The Fillies edged Burlington Central, 3-2, in their regular season finale but have won each of their five postseason games by four runs or more.