Sarah McLaughlin is always looking for an edge.
McLaughlin is a senior catcher for the St. Hubert High School softball team, and she was a good player during her junior year.
But she wasn’t happy with just good, so she put in a lot of work.
“I just kind of started tweaking my swing and listening to what my coaches say,” said McLaughlin, who lives in Winchester Park. “I now go up, relax and swing. You can’t hit the ball without swinging. I really needed to work to get into a groove after last year.
“I put in a lot of time, working by myself, putting work in on and off the field. I worked out by myself, doing drills at home. I go to the gym. I work with my sister (Jessica, fifth grade). She’s a good helper. She likes softball and she likes to be involved. Whenever I need to work out without the big equipment that we have at practice, I work with her. It’s helped.”
McLaughlin is now one of the most feared hitters in the Catholic League and is a big reason why the Bambies are playing so well this year.
McLaughlin is hitting .435 with two doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs and five runs scored. She’s also been a beast behind the plate, throwing out three baserunners and working hard with pitcher Riley Long and the rest of the team to be the leader on and off the field.
“I think this year is going really well,” said McLaughlin, who has helped the Bambies start the season 3-0 while outscoring foes 31-7. “We have errors we need to work on as a team, but we’re playing really well. We had a good amount of home runs, we’re playing well as a team, hitting, in the field and pitching. I think we’re doing really well.”
McLaughlin is happy, but far from satisfied.
The Catholic League, as it almost always is, is very balanced. There are a handful of teams that could contend for the plaque in June, and McLaughlin believes the Bambies should be in the thick of things.
“We have a lot of young potential on the team, so we knew we had to tweak some things, but we have really good players,” McLaughlin said. “I’m not shocked we’re doing well. I think we expected it. But we have to push our ability throughout the season.”
Being a leader is a role McLaughin takes very seriously. She’s had plenty of experience with being a captain, having been one of the leaders on last year’s team, as well as being a captain of the Bambies volleyball team in the fall.
“’I’m not loud all the time, but being a leader is a big part of the game,” McLaughlin said. “I can be loud, but what I try to do is make mental note of things and then address it when we’re together off the field. But I say what I need. I subside my emotions as best I can. In some circumstances it’s hard, your initial reaction might be to lash out, but we’re all on the same page. Nobody makes mistakes on purpose, so you have to lift them up.
“This is a great team to lead. We have great leaders. All the captains do a great job, and everyone is on the same page, so that makes it easier.”
Her leadership skills go beyond the diamond.
McLaughlin is involved in a lot of activities at the school. On top of her two sports, she’s in the National Honor Society and a member of Athletes Helping Athletes. She’s also the president of the student council for her senior class.
Running for that was a challenge, especially because she had to do it during volleyball season.
“Usually, you have the elections at the end of last year, but because we were doing hybrid, we did it this year,” McLaughlin said. “I had to work really hard to get it. We had to do a campaign, make posters, hand out buttons, I gave out candy. I gave a speech. I think it was a good experience. When I’m prepared, I feel like I present myself well, it was a good learning experience.
“I based it off of popular movies, some of my posters were from Mean Girls or Clueless. Legally Blonde, stuff like that. And I had a slogan, ‘Show you care, vote for Sarah.’”
McLaughlin will continue leading both on the field and in school through the end of the year. Then it’s off to college.
She’s leaning toward not playing sports in college, but she could always change her mind. Nothing is set in stone, including her major, but she does have it narrowed down.
“I want to do something nursing, nursing or veterinary. Depends on where I go, waiting on a few schools. Sports isn’t my main priority, I’ll take it into consideration, but it might be over after this season.
“I love animals, that’s why I would love to be a veterinarian. My dog, Harper, is my pride and joy. She’s a springer spaniel mixed with a mini bernedoodle. Her name is fitting because she’s got a bold personality.”
Now McLaughlin just wants to end her season on a good note. But whatever she does, she’ll be honoring her grandfather while doing so.
“I definitely have learned a lot through my grandpop,” McLaughlin said. “He passed away in 2020. He was my No. 1 supporter, school sports, he was always there. He would give you the shirt off his back. I owe a lot to him.
“He was playing in the over-70s league until the year he died. He would play anywhere. He did whatever they needed.”
Sounds a lot like his favorite softball player.