Softball: Scoreboard proves Grant's Bengston is a true impact player

The number, while ludicrously good, is just the start.


That's how many dents there are on Grant's metal, electronic softball scoreboard, which is stationed behind the fence in left field. Erin Bengston put them there - one on the "G" in "GUEST" and the other on the "S" in "HITS" - by hitting screaming home runs.

The plastic glass, which protects the scoreboard bulbs, remains a target.

"I want to hit the glass," Bengston said. "I want to see if it shatters."

She might not be kidding, and Grant's right-handed-hitting slugger might not be Roy Hobbs, but give her another year (her senior year) and she might make sparks fly. The junior enjoys proving skeptics, like those who have questioned her hitting prowess considering her 5-foot-1 frame, wrong.


That's how many home runs Bengston belted this season, as Grant won 25 games. In late April, she accepted a Division I scholarship offer from the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.

Her county-record homer total, 70 RBI, .596 batting average, .664 on-base and 1.431 slugging percentages made for one smashing season and made her the captain of the Daily Herald Lake County all-area softball team.

That's leaving a mark.

"On top of all that, she made the transition from catcher to third base and was our defensive team leader and captain of our team," said Grant coach Chris Van Alstine, who saw Bengston earn all-conference honors as a catcher her freshman and sophomore seasons. She was an all-area player as well last year.

In Algebra II this year, Bengston says she learned about exponential growth. You know, like going from 3 homers as a sophomore to 22 as a junior.

"Like it just grows, rapidly," said Bengston, explaining exponential growth.

The story of her rapid rise in homers - she socked 1 as a freshman - starts in the off-season. If she wasn't working out with weights, she was swinging a bat. She boasts a Bownet at home and used to have a batting cage. She likes to take practice cuts with a wood baseball bat, which is heavier than a softball bat.

"In the off-season, I worked really hard," Bengston said. "I lifted just about every day. Most of the time, I swing six days a week and I take at least 200 swings in my backyard. I use heavier bats."

Bengston's prized bat is a white, blue and neon green Louisville Slugger LXT (33 inches, 25 ounces). She hit all 22 of her homers with it this spring. The model has been discontinued, but last summer she got two, one of which hasn't been used yet. The bat is a little heavy for her frame, but her exceptional bat speed makes it seemingly perfect for her.

Van Alstine - "Van All," as Bengston calls her coach - gets credit, too, for the stronger Bengston. He had Grant's softball players lifting five days a week. Sometimes on Friday, the players would run 2-3 times around the perimeter of the school. Sometimes they would sweat hard doing a workout video.

Sometimes this spring, Bengston would barely lift the bat off her shoulders.

As she kept hitting flyballs over fences and line drives past infielders, teams would try to pitch around her. They would throw her pitches off the plate, willing to walk her if first base was unoccupied.

"I did the counting," said Bengston, still in math mode. "In the last nine games, I got walked intentionally 14 times."

Once, against Grayslake North, she said, the Knights tried to walk her for a fifth time. She homered anyway.

"They threw me all outside, and then one came a little too close," Bengston said. "I just took a hack at it and it went right over (the fence in right field)."

Bengston said earlier this spring that she's done growing. But her mom, Cheryl, is 5-2 and her dad, John, stands 5-11, so maybe there's growth in her future, just not maybe exponential growth.

Can her silly-good offensive numbers get even better senior year?

"I'm just going to keep doing my thing," said Bengston, who's playing travel ball this summer with the Chicago Cheetahs. "I'm going to keep working as hard as I can. I'll obviously meet with my hitting coach (Jason Acevedo) and go to all the off-season things. I'm just going to do the same thing I did last (off-season). I'm sure I'll get stronger."

Good luck, Mr. Scoreboard.

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