Building the Pilgrim softball team into the Division II contender it is today has been a team effort. But one player has been there every step of the way, and on Thursday, she was celebrated for it.
Senior shortstop Katelyn Reph recorded her 100th career hit against Cranston East. That number may not carry the cache of 1,000 points in basketball, but Pilgrim head coach Bill Aquilante thinks it’s just as special – for the number itself and for what it represents.
In Reph’s case, it symbolizes a special career.
“When she took over at shortstop her freshman year, we started to play better,” Aquilante said. “She kind of stabilized us there and she’s started every game since then. To have that consistency, the same player out there for all those games in a row, has been big for us.”
Aquilante saw the milestone coming and when he started doing the math, he realized it was a rare feat. Reph is a .416 career hitter, with 100 hits in 240 at-bats. A player would almost have to start from day one just to get that many at-bats. To then get 25 hits a season is no small feat. It would have been even tougher before the pitching rubber was moved back several years ago.
“I think she’s the only girl at Pilgrim to do it, when you consider all the factors,” Aquilante said. “Basketball, the numbers are there. Softball, a coach leaves and he’s got the book in his basement so we never know. We’re going to go with it. If someone wants to show me a scorebook and prove it otherwise, that’s fine.”
And regardless, it’s still a benchmark worth celebrating.
“I was really excited,” Reph said. “It felt like my hard work was paying off. Since I love softball so much, it’s a really big achievement for me.”
Reph has been playing most of her life. She started with baseball but quickly moved over to fast-pitch softball. She played for local leagues and travel teams, and she’s been playing in college showcases in recent years.
When she got to Pilgrim, she was just hoping to get a chance.
“I was hoping I could make varsity or swing,” Reph said. “As a freshman, it was kind of hard but I was able to prove myself and show off my hard work.”
Reph grabbed the starting job at second base at the beginning of her freshman year. The Pats struggled to a 3-15 mark in Division I, but Reph was a bright spot.
She moved to shortstop and never left.
“She took over with six games to go and we lost all those games, but we were real competitive,” Aquilante said. “We were playing good teams like Toll Gate and La Salle and we were playing well.”
Pilgrim moved to Division II in 2011 and has steadily improved, going 9-7 that year and 10-6 in 2012. This year, the Pats are 5-1 in league play and have won non-league games against Toll Gate and Warwick Vets, both of whom are still in Division I.
All the way along, Reph has been a steady presence at the top of the order and in the middle of the infield.
“She’s a quiet leader,” Aquilante said. “The girls can look at the way she prepares for the game, for example. Before the game, she’s taking her swings. She’s focusing on what she’s doing. She keeps herself on an even keel. A bad at-bat, the next time up you don’t worry about her taking it back up there with her.”
Reph had 97 career hits heading into Thursday’s game. She hit singles in her first two at-bats, and when she came up in the seventh, she smashed a double to center field to reach 100.
“Knowing I was close, I wanted to just focus on making solid contact and hitting a gap,” Reph said.
Aquilante took the milestone ball out of the game and presented it to Reph after the final out.
It was a chance to reflect.
“My teammates and my coaches and my parents have been really dedicated,” Reph said. “I can’t thank everybody enough.”
Reph plans to play softball next year at Sacred Heart University, where she’s been accepted into the physical therapy program. While she’s excited about the future, she’s still focused on the present.
She’d like to help Pilgrim complete its climb.
“It’s been great to be a part of a winning team,” Reph said. “I think we have a really good team this year and we’re working well together. We haven’t made it to RIC since I’ve been here and that’s our goal this year.”