Focused, competitive, serious, the Windsor/Stew-Stras 2nd baseman was a top recruit for the Lake Land Laker softball program. After considering other programs, Windsor senior Ava Bennett signed close to home.

However, close to home is not the reason she picked Lake Land.

“They are very competitive,” Bennett said. “They take things seriously. I felt I’ll get pushed to be better.”

Despite contact with the nearby program over the years, Bennett was planning to go to a different program after graduation.

“But, I really like the (Lake Land) program and I am going into nursing, so I decided to go there,” Bennett said.

She has two teammates playing for Lake Land and girls she knows from her 11 years in the Mattoon Cobras traveling program. She says being close to home and knowing some of the girls is a plus, but not the reason she is going there.

“It will be a nicer transition,” she said. “And, it will help.”

Bennett also like the nursing program at Lake Land that she calls competitive.

They compete well with other schools and are successful at lining up good nursing careers after the program.

Bennett’s plan is to play two years at the junior college level and go on and play somewhere else.

“I want to play somewhere and they are usually good connecting with other programs if players want to go on playing,” Bennett said.

Lake Land Softball Coach Nic Nelson said that helping his players at the next level is a goal.

“In the 10 years I have been here, we have 64 players that have gone on to play with Division I programs,” Nelson said.

Nelson believes Bennett can be one of those players.

“With her athleticism, her bat and her speed, she was one of our top recruits.” Nelson said. “We have a sophomore 2nd baseman this spring and the back-up is a sophomore. So, we will lose them and we are looking at Bennett to step into a starting roll as a freshman next fall.”

Nelson says it is a big transition for students going from high school to college in many ways.

“The biggest difference at the next level will be the length and the intensity of what we do,” Nelson said. “We work at it all day, every day, all year. For most players its their first time away from home.”

Bennett is known for her good bat, but she typically hits singles and doubles not home runs.

“She has had a good bat for the short game,” Nelson said. “We will have to get her to hit for power. We will have her hit away more in the fall. We want to build up her power.”

According to Nelson Bennett has already seen Division I college pitching, when she played travel ball. Bennett was on the Cobra’s team last summer that won the SEAA World Series, a 32-team national tournament.

Bennett spent 11 years in the Cobra program, since she was 7. She was on the Windsor/Stew-Stras team that placed 3rd at IESA State in 2014.

As a starter for the Windsor/Stew-Stras high school team, she has already played in the IHSA super-sectional as a freshman, won an IHSA State Championship as a sophomore, and another super-sectional as a junior. She was named a 2019 Decatur Area 2nd Team pick.

Bennett, who admits she is very competitive, credits her coaches for getting her to the collegiate level.

“My coaches and my parents were there for me, especially when things got tough,” Bennett said. “My grandparents and my brother were at every game. My dad was hard on me and pushed me to be the best. He played baseball in college and he knows what it takes.”

Bennett played in the Mattoon Cobras traveling team program for 11 years. Her dad, Quinn Bennett coached her on the Cobras and as an WSS assistant in junior high and high school, where they placed 3rd in IESA, had a state title in IHSA and 2 super-sectional appearances.

Craig Moffett was her WSS head coach the last 3 years.

“She is an above average defender and has a strong arm at 2nd base,” Moffett said. “She is good at making decisions. She is a good bunter and an aggressive base runner. I saw her make a big jump from her sophomore to her junior years.”

2019 WSS Super-Sectional (36-2-1)

Bennett stats

Batting: GP 39, PA 127, AB 106, Avg .396, H 42, 1B-28, 2B-9, 3B-3, HR 2, RBI 28, R 34, HBP 1, ROE 8, FC 8, BB 11, SB 17, CS 5, PIK 1, K 18, OBP .450, SLG .594

Fielding: TC 81, Ast 40, PO 41, Err 0, DP 2, PCT. 1.000

2018 WSS State Champs (28-4)

Bennett stats

Batting: GP 31, PA 97, AB 86, Avg .291, H 25, 1B-22, 2B-1, 3B-2, RBI 12, R 20, ROE 4, FC 6, BB 7, SB 11, CS 0, K 28, OBP .340, SLG .349

Fielding: TC 71, Ast 41, PO 23, Err 7, DP 3, PCT .901

2017 WSS Super-Sectional (29-5)

Bennett stats

Batting: GP 34, PA 111, AB 87, Avg .264, H 23, 1B-16, 2B-5, 3B-2, RBI 24, R 23, HBP 4, ROE 3, FC 2, BB 17, SB 5, CS 2, K 32, OBP .407, SLG .368

Fielding: TC 67, Ast 30, PO 32, Err 5, DP 1, PCT. 925

John Curtis can be reached at john.curtis@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

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