WARSAW – When opportunity knocked this softball season for Cari O’Hara, the Warsaw senior made sure to answer its call.
In fact, the Tiger pitcher made the most of it by turning her chance into a record-setting year.
The stellar season for the cool, calm and collected O’Hara has been one she admits she could have never even dreamed of.
O’Hara went from primarily pitching on the Tiger JV a year ago to setting the school single-season record for wins Friday night. With a 16-1 victory at Tippecanoe Valley, O’Hara notched her 15th win for the 18-9 Tigers, breaking the old school mark of 14 set by Kelcy Martin in 2007.
All this from a young lady who in the offseason was not even sure she was going to try out for the team her final year.
O’Hara did make the decision to come out and the rest is history. She has stepped up as pitchers Kaleigh Speicher and Alex Sanchez from last year’s 21-9 team have not pitched this season. Speicher just recently returned to action after having shoulder surgery in the offseason and Sanchez, a volleyball standout, decided not to play this year.
“I had to think a lot about if I was going to come out for the team,” said O’Hara before a recent practice. “Then, my opportunity opened up. I’ve surprised myself. I never thought I would be like I’ve been this season.
“It’s been exciting, but nerve racking too. There’s pressure on me, but my defense supports me and I have a lot of confidence in Kelsey (catcher Kelsey Dotson).”
O’Hara, the ultimate finesse pitcher who thrives on location and changing speeds, has left an impression on many this year.
“It’s a great story,” said WCHS coach Jim Speicher of O’Hara’s record-breaking performance. “It’s a wonderful thing for her. She’s made the most of her opportunity. She’s the kind of kid that it takes to make a program successful. The thing I think about with Cari is how coachable she is. She’s done what we’ve asked of her to her utmost ability this season.
“Her consistency has impressed me. She’s taken our game plan and executed it to a T this year. I thought at the start of the season that we would have to outscore people and win games 9-8 or 10-9. Cari has proven to the team they should have confidence in her every game. I know I do.”
“I don’t even know what to say about Cari,” said the highly-competitive Dotson, who is seemingly never at a loss for words. “She’s been incredible and has impressed me beyond belief this season. She’s completely surpassed my expectations at the start of the year.
“She hits her spots and I know she can give us a strike when we need it. She’s just calm, mello, relaxed and laid back out there. I don’t worry about her. She’s also just a great teammate. She is encouraging and would do anything for you.”
O’Hara played JV as a freshman, did not play as a sophomore and then was primarily a JV pitcher her junior year. She was mostly oblivious to the record until lately.
“I had no idea about it (the record), but it would be cool to break it,” said O’Hara when she had 11 wins.
O’Hara plans to attend Grace College, but is not sure yet if she will play softball there.
First, though she would like to add a couple more memories to her final prep campaign.
The Tigers face Elkhart Memorial (9-17) Monday at 5:30 p.m. to open sectional play at Memorial. Warsaw beat Memorial twice during the regular season, the last time coming Thursday night 7-1 as O’Hara did not pitch. A win Monday and Warsaw likely meets No. 4 Northridge in a semifinal game. The Raiders, who are 25-1 and play Concord Monday in the second game at Memorial, defeated the Tigers twice handily during the regular season.
“We have the potential to win the sectional,” concluded O’Hara.
What an ending that would be to her storybook senior season.
Class 4-A At Elkhart Memorial
May 21: 5:30 p.m.: Warsaw vs. Memorial; 7:30: Northridge vs. Concord
May 23: 5:30 p.m.: Monday winners; 7:30: Elkhart Central vs. Goshen
May 25: 7 p.m.: Championship Game
Class 3-A At Fairfield
May 21: 5 p.m.: Lakeland vs. Tippecanoe Valley; 7: Fairfield vs. West Noble
May 22: 5 p.m.: Monday winners; 7: NorthWood vs. Wawasee
May 24: 7 p.m.: Championship Game
Class 3-A At Norwell
May 21: 5 p.m.: Mississinewa vs. Eastbrook
May 22: 5 p.m.: Whitko vs. Heritage
May 23: 5 p.m.: Monday winner vs. Tuesday winner
May 24: 5 p.m.: Bellmont vs. Norwell
May 25: 5 p.m.: Championship Game
Class 1-A At South Central (times CST)
May 21: 4:30 p.m.: Westville vs. Culver
May 22: 4:30 p.m.: Marquette vs. Triton
May 23: 4:30 p.m.: Monday winner vs. Tuesday winner
May 24: 4:30 p.m.: South Central vs. Argos
May 25: 4:30 p.m.: Championship Game