Peyton Beger stepped into her senior season with a different aura.
“I think I was more relaxed coming into this season,” she said. “I knew where I was going to college. I just went out and hit. I didn’t stress on it as much in the offseason as I have been. It was more, whatever happens, happens.”
Beger has had a heck of a season for the Lady Bruins.
“I think Peyton needed to know where she was going (to college) and she relaxed after that,” Coach Jamie Goodman said. “She knew what she wanted to do and after that she settled in, played really relaxed this year and I think that’s helped her a lot.
“When they’re nervous and jittery, or they’re in a slump, things aren’t going their way, everybody squeezes a little tighter. When you’re relaxed and letting the game come to you, it goes a lot easier for you. Peyton has been relaxed all year.”
Heading into Saturday’s KHSAA State Tournament semifinal game, Beger .486 with 68 hits, 56 RBIs, 54 runs, 10 doubles, one triple and 16 home runs.
“I wanted to hit better than last year,” she said. “I just wanted to improve on everything.”
Beger hit .366 a year ago with 49 hits, 35 RBIs, 34 runs, nine doubles, two triples and six home runs.
In helping to lead Central Hardin to a fifth straight 5th Region Tournament championship and a 10th District Tournament title in a row, Beger gas been named the Area Player of the Year as voted on by the seven area coaches and The News-Enterprise sports staff.. She finished with 28 points and five first-place votes. Meade County sophomore Mary Morgan was second with 16 points and one first-place vote. Lady Bruins senior pitcher Kaci Goedde was third. Elizabethtown freshman Hannah Riley received a first-place vote.
Voting was done on a 5-3-1 scale and coaches couldn’t vote for their players.
“It means a lot,” Beger said of the award. “There’s a bunch of good players in this area. It’s a great honor.”
She said her No. 1 individual goal entering the season was in playing center field.
“I didn’t want any errors on defense. I don’t know if I have any, but it might be one or two,” said Beger, who is heading to Georgetown College.
“I know she’s made a lot of plays for us,” Goodman said. “The great plays and the routine plays outweight anything else. If she’s made an error, it would be one or two. She does a great job out there for us.
Beger did not play basketball her senior year and she said that also helped her.
“I think that had something to do with it,” she said. “I was in the softball atmosphere the entire time. I was getting stronger through conditioning with them.”
The biggest number for Beger is the home run total of 16.
“That’s been pretty crazy,” she said. “I just think line drives and if it goes out, it goes out. I was looking for the right pitch. I wasn’t going to swing at something if it wasn’t my pitch, unless I had two strikes or something.”
She hit her 16th homer and 10th double in Saturday’s 12-0, six-inning state quarterfinal victory over Pendleton County. Her 16th came quite some time after her 15th.
“I didn’t care about that,” Beger said. “The team was still hitting. We were still winning and I just wanted to help my team in any way I could. It’s not been about the home runs. It’s about helping this team win and get better.”
She started with the program as a seventh-grader in 2014. Also on that team was classmate Goedde and sixth-grader Bailey Richardson.
Beger said she learned early on from the upper classmen and the coaching staff what it took to be a member of the program and get to the state tournament.
“The coaches know what it’s like to go there and they know what it takes to get there,” she said. “A bunch of these girls have been there before and that helps when you get to this part of the season. Experience has big thing to do with this team.
“Since we are fortunate to make it that far a lot of times, the younger girls in the program see what it takes to get there. They’re able to see all the hard work that is put in during conditioning and preseason and during the season. They also see that we have a lot of fun as players and we have a lot of fun with the coaches. They know the work they have to put in and they know how big it is for them to be here.”
That also includes squashing drama and outside noise.
“We haven’t had to deal with anything like that this year,” Beger said. “Everybody just hangs low and we all want to do what’s best for the team.”