Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan — Seniors Katie Frerking (17), Caramia Tsirigos (24), Amanda DeLaperriere (22) and Victoria DiStasi (19) have contributed diverse skills in helping Wesleyan to the Class AA State Softball Tournament. They begin the tournament against Vidalia in Columbus today.
NORCROSS -- As with any high school softball team that qualifies for the state tournament, senior leadership has been an important factor in Wesleyan's run this fall.
And like a lot of teams, the Wolves' four-person Class of 2012 has not only done a good job exhibiting leadership collectively, but individually.
"They all have a very distinct piece (of the puzzle) they bring," Wesleyan coach Nichole Dixon said.
Indeed, while Wesleyan's "Fab Four" are very close as a group, each member stands out in her own way.
There's "The Natural" (catcher CaraMia Tsirigos), "The Multi-tasker" (shortstop Katie Frerking), "The New Girl" (pitcher Amanda DeLaPerriere) and "The Quiet One" in outfielder Victoria DiStasi.
Together, their personalities blend to give the Wesleyan underclassmen plenty to look up to.
"The younger kids can look at each one of us and just find a similarity and just bond," Tsirigos said. "We all bring something different to the table, and we just keep it loose -- keep it fun."
Each senior's individual personality has helped contribute to what can make for the most fun season possible -- winning.
And the defending state runner-up Wolves (27-9 and ranked No. 4 in Class AA) have done plenty heading into a first-round game today against Vidalia at the South Commons Softball Complex in Columbus.
Tsirigos' biggest contributions have been with her bat as she is Wesleyan's leading hitter with a .448 average, nine home runs 50 RBIs and a 1.449 OPS.
It comes as little surprise, then, that she is perhaps the best pure softball player among the seniors, has the most experience on the travel softball circuit and has verbally committed to play college softball at Indiana.
But as important as her on-field talent has been to the Wolves' success, it is a commitment Tsirigos made off the field that helped enhance those contributions.
Working with the father of injured teammate Landyn Duley on a training program, Tsirigos has shed about 40 pounds since last spring, and has set an example to the rest of the team of what hard work can accomplish.
"I started working out with Landyn's dad and started doing P90X and Insanity -- just all types of different workout programs," Tsirigos said. "I just (went) to work and preparing myself for college and summer (travel ball) and my senior year.
"Catching seven innings is way easier (now). I've gotten so many more doubles (15) this year. My explosiveness and speed on the bases have increased."
Still, few Wesleyan players lead by example better than DiStasi, and it goes beyond impressive numbers that include a .377 average, two homers, 36 RBIs, 16 doubles, 34 runs scored and a 1.021 OPS.
When Duley was lost for the season with a foot injury, DiStasi moved into center field and has done a rock steady job without complaint.
"She's calm," Dixon said of DiStasi.
"(The rest of her team) jokingly calls her 'Sassy,' since she's come out of her shell a little since seventh grade. But she's had to play center field for us, and she will sacrifice her body to do so. She's had to fill big shoes behind Landyn Duley. It's something you can't replace, but she's done her best to do it."
As Dixon mentioned, DiStasi has taken a more vocal role this season, something she felt a need to do to add a sense of urgency to the team for her senior season.
"Definitely being a senior makes all the girls look up to you," DiStasi said. "And I feel more comfortable around everyone (this year). Everyone's so close here."
The tight-knit, famiiy-type atmosphere is something DeLaPerriere noticed when she first came to Wesleyan a year ago, and while she always felt welcome, she admits her comfort level -- like DiStasi's has risen this year.
"It's definitely been better getting to know everybody the second year," DeLaPerriere said. "But everybody's so easy to get along with. I always feel close to everybody on the team."
That increased comfort level has shown in the circle, where she has combined with junior Dacia Jones to bolster the depth of the Wolves' pitching staff with a 14-6 record, a 2.66 ERA and 76 strikeouts, which Dixon believes could give the team a leg -- or an arm -- up in the tournament's double-elimination format.
"She helped to give us an edge last year," Dixon said. "Having just one pitcher to go through Columbus that many games -- I don't think we would've been able to do it."
Then, there's Frerking -- perhaps the best all-around athlete on the team, who is also a standout for Wesleyan's basketball and track programs.
What amazes Dixon the most about the Auburn basketball commit is how much she is able to contribute considering the fact that her work in on the court during the summer -- be it with Wesleyan's summer program or on the AAU circuit -- prevents her from playing travel softball.
"It's very difficult for her to do anything during the summer," Dixon said. "To be as good as she is, it's pretty remarkable. ... She does a phenomenal job for us playing shortstop. And she doesn't pick up a bat until about Aug. 1. That doesn't happen."But Frerking's contributions have happened, as the 6-foot-1 shortstop has not only shown plenty of range in the field, but also has produced at the plate.
"I put my bat down when the season ends and I pick it back up the day the (next) season starts," admitted Frerking, who is hitting .447 with a homer, 34 RBIs, 34 runs scored, five triples and a 1.238 OPS this season.
"It's kind of fun because it's a challenge. What I love about softball is that I play basketball so much. So, softball is always something new for me. It's a totally different type of sport. It's fun to come out and do something new for two or three months."
But as much fun as Frerking is having, the competitive fire still burns in her like it does the rest of her teammates.
And that fire only burns hotter after the Wolves finished just one step short of a state title in Class A last year -- a step DiStasi said the team is determined to take this weekend.
"This year, we have higher expectations for ourselves," DiStasi said. "That's part of the reason we've done so well."