By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Sarah Beamer has always been determined to be the best.
Never satisfied with her performance on the softball field, the Skyline senior repeatedly raised the standards by which she held herself accountable, always looking to raise and ultimately surpass that proverbial bar.
It was that attitude that helped Beamer emerge as a true leader on the field for the Hawks this season, and it's also a big reason why she leaves Skyline holding every single one of the school's pitching records.
"I was determined to be the best player in the area, the district, anywhere. I've just always been determined to be the best at everything that I do," Beamer said. "Some people might say that's cocky, but I just like to be the best at everything.
"I remember my freshman year my dad and I were talking and I told him that I wanted to end my career with four district titles and as many awards as I could get."
Beamer nearly met those lofty goals, as she helped lead the Hawks to three Northwestern District titles in her four varsity seasons, including the regular season championship this year. Beamer also garnered plenty of recognition for her performances in the pitching circle over the last four seasons, not surprising given her career record of 50-20, an impressive sub-1.00 ERA and nearly 600 strikeouts.
But none of Beamer's performances was as critical to Skyline's success as what she did this season for the Hawks.
After losing six players to graduation from last year's team, Skyline coach Frank Nelson knew it would be up to Beamer and fellow seniors Allison Funk and Emily Ritter to help guide the team this season.
Beamer, The Northern Virginia Daily's 2013 Softball Player of the Year, rose to the occasion, finishing the season with a 13-2 record, a 1.24 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 101 innings pitched. At the plate, Beamer batted .397 with five home runs, nine doubles, three triples and 20 RBIs.
Beamer was named the Northwestern District Player of the Year, was a first team all-Region II selection and helped lead the Hawks to their first victory in the regional tournament in the program's history.
"I just think it was the best year that I've ever had here in my four years of playing varsity softball," Beamer said. "This year it was basically up to me and Allison and Emily, and everybody contributed and we all had a good year.
"It actually went a lot better than I thought I would. I didn't expect us to win our first regional game. But everyone stepped up and played."
For Beamer, the win over Briar Woods in the Region II quarterfinals was doubly satisfying. Not only was it Skyline's first regional victory, but it also marked the first time in three tries that Beamer had beaten Briar Woods in a regional contest.
The win also came on the heels of a disappointing 7-0 loss to James Wood in the district tournament championship, and Beamer said it was nice to see the team bounce back and accomplish a feat no other Skyline softball team had.
"It was great. Playing Briar Woods my freshman, junior and senior years, I just wanted to beat them. That's all," Beamer said. "I really just approached that game as I didn't have anything to lose. If we win, we keep going. If we lose, there's nothing we can really do about it. I just went up there playing as hard as I could, and I think everybody else did, too."
Beamer's determination each and every time she stepped on the field was something that Nelson noticed even as he coached Skyline's JV softball squad two seasons ago.
Nelson said it's a personality that some people may not fully understand, but it is a trait that sets Beamer apart from most high school players.
"Sarah knows what she wants and knew what she wanted from the get-go. It's nice to see someone stay focused enough to realize what a lot of people just hope they can do," Nelson said. "Once you set your goal, you have to work towards it. Some people lose focus, but Sarah didn't, and I'm really proud of her."
Beamer will attend the University of Virginia-Wise next season after getting offered a partial scholarship to play softball. The decision was easy for Beamer, as she said the small size of the school created a comfortable atmosphere.
The prospect of beginning a softball season without Beamer in the pitching circle brings an air of uncertainty to Skyline's softball program next year, but Nelson said there are several young players who are ready to step in.
Whoever is chosen as Beamer's replacement, one thing remains certain -- they will certainly have some big shoes to fill.
"Over the last four years, I've set the bar high for myself every year and I always try to reach it and go above it," Beamer said. "I feel that anyone coming up under me has a pretty high bar to step up to."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com