Softball’s five seniors emotional for senior day


Submitted Photo: Eastern's five seniors will celebrate senior day this weekend.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Beck. Watson. Bennett. Markowski. Isaac. These five seniors will play their final games at Williams Field this weekend and continue to lead the Panthers as they have done all season.

The Panthers’ lineup consists of Beck batting second, Watson batting third, Bennett at cleanup, Markowski at fifth, and Isaac turning the lineup around to the top at the bottom of the order.

These five seniors have accounted for 87 out of 136 RBIs this season, and show some of the top averages on the team.

A lot can be said about this group of seniors and the friendship they share on and off the field, which has translated into wins on the field.

While the Panthers will still head to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Wednesday, this weekend means a little bit more to these five seniors.

No. 6 Haylee Beck has spent much of the season batting in the 2-hole and has spent a lot of time at third base for the Panthers. She moved to third base after starting the season in center field.

This past week leading up to the final games at Williams Field has been filled with a lot of emotion for Beck.

“Our emotions this week have certainly been all over the place,” Beck said. “I don’t think there was a night this week where one of us wasn’t crying. It’s definitely going to be tough saying goodbye to a sport that’s been such a passion in my life for 18 years, along with my teammates who have become like sisters, but I’m ready for what’s in store next.”

Beck will take a .268 batting average into the weekend. She has done it all for the Panthers when she is in the lineup from driving in runs, scoring runs, and getting herself into scoring position with her eight doubles on the year.

Beck, just like the others will be able to celebrate senior day this weekend with her family.

“It’s going to mean the world to have my family and those who have supported me over the years there on senior day,” Beck said.

Beck’s Eastern career began in 2013, but her 18-year softball career has been possible because of her parents helping her chase her dream.

“My parents especially have given up so much to allow me to chase this dream and this day is just as much about thanking them as it is about celebrating my career.

No. 28 Katie Watson has not spent all four years here at Eastern as she transferred here from Lake Land College for her final two years.

Although it has only been two years at Eastern for Watson to be with the other four seniors, it does not feel that way.

“I’ve only been here for two years, I know, but I have gotten so close with these girls it feels like four,” Watson said. “It will mean everything to be able to go out at home for the last time with these girls.”

Even though Watson wasn’t on the team with the other seniors for their freshman and sophomore seasons, they did play each other a couple times in the fall seasons.

Watson has spent the entire season playing shortstop for the Eastern softball team after being the team’s second baseman last season.

Watson has the second-highest batting average on the team at .286, and has also driven in 20 runs this season.

Heading into the final weekend, Watson leads the team in doubles with nine.

Just like Beck, Watson has had a week filled with emotions.

“My emotions are everywhere,” Watson said. “I’m happy that I was able to come here and finish out my career with this family we have. But I am also sad and nervous about this part of my life coming to an end.”

In just her two years here, Watson came in and started right away, and has helped lead the Panthers to having the successful season they are. Eastern will have a chance to clinch the No. 2 seed this weekend for the tournament.

No. 55 Kylie Bennett has been the team’s cleanup hitter this season, and has lived up to the spot in the order having the team lead in RBIs with 26 and home runs with eight.

She has been the Panthers’ starting first baseman for most of the season.

Bennett has been an athlete all her life, and the fact that it is coming to an end, she cannot believe the time has come.

“I can’t believe it,” Bennett said. “I am still in denial. I don’t think I have fully comprehended that my career as an athlete is coming to an end. I’m still refusing to accept that this season will eventually come to an end.

Since the week has been very emotional, Bennett has tried not to think about it as much as she can.

Other than crying, she said, they are trying to focus on the games this weekend since they have the chance to clinch the No. 2 seed for the tournament.

“This week especially I have really tried no thinking about it,” Bennett said. “But every time the whole team is together, it is hard not to.”

While Bennett struggles to accept that the season will eventually come to an end, she is glad it’s with these seniors.

“I cannot ask for a better group of friends, teammates, sisters to end my career with,” Bennett said.

The toughest part for Bennett to think about is her family.

Bennett’s softball career has been as much a part of her parent’s lives as hers.

“I really want to dedicate senior day to them,” Bennett said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m just really thankful that they have been supportive through all these years and are able to be here with me on a bid day like senior day.”

 From her on-field dancing, sense of humor, and team-leading batting average, No. 27 April Markowski has made a big difference in the Panther’s lineup this season.

When Markowski came in as a freshman, the team’s seniors at the time told her to enjoy it because it goes by fast.

“All that’s been going through my head is that this is almost over,” Markowski said. “I’m never going to be on the same field as my best friends ever again.”

Markowski just wants to make this season last as long as possible, she said.

Markowski has been big threat at the plate with her .321 batting average, but has also added five home runs and has proven to be a threat on the bases as well. She has stolen 13 out of 18 bases successfully this season.

Just like Bennett, Markowski called these four other seniors her family.

“This group is so special because they became my family away form home,” Markowski said. “We hangout every single day and they have all become my best friends. I seriously enjoy every minute with them even if they get on my nerves sometimes.”

Markowski has been the team’s right fielder this season, with Beck next to her in center and Isaac in left.

While this week has been, and this weekend will be emotionally packed, Markowski is fired up for this weekend’s games at Williams Field against Southeast Missouri.

“I think this weekend will be on a whole ‘nother level of hyped,” she said. “My dancing will be on point, my makeup will be all over my face, but this is just going to be a great weekend rain or shine. I can’t wait.”

Unlike her senior teammates, Jennette Isaac has had the same number her entire career at Eastern, No. 1.

Isaac has patrolled left field in almost every game for the Panthers and has been very reliable out there. She has been a big base stealer as well.

Isaac has successfully stolen 10 bases on 12 attempts this season.

It’s no surprise that Isaac also has mixed emotions with this weekend coming up. While Isaac may be graduating just like the other four seniors, there is more to it.

“Lately I’ve been very emotional and relieved,” Isaac said. “My thoughts were: I finally made it, I’m about to be the first generation in my family to graduate college, and my softball career is coming to an end. But I’m excited that I’m graduating and to be finishing it off with my fellow seniors.”

Isaac bats last in the Panthers lineup and has done her job of getting on base to turn it back over the top of the lineup to drive her in.

Isaac’s goals for her senior day are simple: She just wants to go in and give it her all on and off the field for her teammates.

“They’re both my families and I want to do my best for both of them, (and) also leave on a strong note,” Isaac said.

For Isaac, just like the others, it hasn’t hit her yet that her college softball career is coming to an end.

Isaac’s ride home is much longer than the other four seniors. The Panther’s left fielder is from Salem, Oregon, close to a 31-hour drive from Eastern.

“I think it’ll really hit me on the drive back home to Oregon,” Isaac said. “That’s when I know my EIU days are over.”

These five seniors who have had four strong years to look back on have just three regular season games left, but it is not over until the end of the OVC tournament starting Wednesday. With the way the Panthers have played, they can make some noise in the tournament.


Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]