Perhaps a little known fact about the most dominant pitcher in Conant softball history is that she enjoys art.
Senior Briana Cavin has been a member of the school art club for two years, and her figure of a ballerina produced from white wire was on display this school year.
"When I was little, my mom's stepdad would give me art supplies and I would sit around and draw a lot when we were traveling on vacations," Cavin said about her fondness for the hobby. "I like art and doing 3-D stuff and sculptures."
On the softball field for the past four years, Cavin's work has a been a masterpiece.
She has pitching and hitting down to an art.
With 30 wins and a batting average of .358 this season, Cavin was our choice for honorary captain of the Daily Herald's All-Area Softball Team.
And Cavin did it all with a straight face.
"You would never see Briana get upset or rattled," said Cougars coach CathyAnn Smith. "She doesn't let anyone see her emotions. And there would be times when she might have thought some pitches which were called balls should have been strikes, but she just keeps on going, never getting upset."
Instead, she has sent many batters back to the dugout upset, striking out a school-record 870 batters in her career along with 31 shutouts and 8 no-hitters. Cavin's velocity picked up each season and currently clocks at 66 mph.
"We knew when she was a freshman she was definitely unique," Smith said. "She was very quiet and we couldn't even use her in our pitching camp because of her speed. She could have hurt some people. But she was so friendly and wanted to participate in everything we did."
When she struck out 14 in a game that first season, Smith knew Cavin was the real deal.
"That's when we knew we had something special," the coach said. "She struck out 238 batters as a freshman."
The 5-foot-6 frosh was just showing signs of things to come. Today, she is Conant's all-time winningest pitcher with a 78-30 record in four seasons.
This season, she struck out a school-record 270 while leading the Cougars to a second straight Mid-Suburban League championship.
It all began when Cavin was 7 years old and her father Tom, a native of Tennessee, pulled her out of gymnastics and put a glove in her hand.
"We used to play catch a little and he just saw some things he liked and decided to try me in T-ball," Briana said. "He used to watch a lot of college softball and I started pitching."
Cavin always had a lot of speed.
"I was clocked around 47 when I was 7," Briana said. "But I wasn't real accurate. Once I threw an inside pitch and hit the batter and broke her hand."
That batter would be a future teammate at Conant.
"When I got here as a freshman, she reminded me of it," Briana said with a laugh.
But now it will be Cavin who will be remembered as one of the best to play for the Cougars' varsity. Her offense is just as impressive as her mound work. The left-handed hitting Cavin used to be a natural right-handed hitter until the age of 11.
"But I was terrible," she said. "I used to strike out all the time. The only time I got on base was when I got hit. So my dad wanted me to start trying left-handed."
She went to some camps and started making much better contact from the left side.
"It felt awkward at first, but once I started doing it all the time it started feeling natural," she said. "Now, batting righty feels awkward."
Cavin can slap or can hit away, as illustrated by her 6 home runs. She realizes being able to pitch to her sister Miranda (committed to Oklahoma State) the last three years has been a special bonus.
"It's definitely been different because when we were little and played on some of the same teams, we'd fight and yell at each other over every little thing," Briana said. "But once we played on some travel teams before high school, we learned not to fight on the field. Now that we're older and more mature, we are able to just pretend we are not even related and act like we are just teammates."
Miranda even calls almost all the pitches for Briana, who often wore her sunglasses on the mound.
"Not only because it's bright, but also it hides my facial expressions," Briana said. "Sometimes you can see in my eyes that I don't agree with something and I don't want someone thinking I wasn't happy with a call."
She also has a habit of slapping the ball into her glove a few time before every pitch. It started when she was a freshman.
"I'd be so nervous," she said. "I want to catch the ball and then pitch it right away. I just started to throw the ball into my glove to pace myself a little.
"Sometimes if I am having a hard time finding the strike zone and fall behind the count, I'll throw the ball into my glove as many times as I need for strikes to get a strikeout."
If you're trying to get Cavin to talk about her strikeouts or wins, or any of her talents, forget about it.
"You've got to try and pull things out of her -- she doesn't like to boast," Smith said. "She has a lot of unique talents. The great thing is that she is very versatile. She is very artistic. She is a key mentor in our PALS program which works with special needs children."
Cavin, who has worked with preschoolers since seventh grade, plans to study early childhood education at Green Bay.
"I want to teach pre-school or kindergarten," she said. "I enjoy working with the little kids."
And Conant fans have enjoyed the work Cavin has done for the Cougars' program.
Cavin never imagined she would become the most successful pitcher in school history.
"As a freshman I figured they'd probably have other pitchers," she said. "I thought maybe I'd go in now and then, but I never imagined I'd throw the majority of games the next four years."
And throw them as well as anyone has for Conant softball.