Bellefonte softball’s Travis Foster, Emma DeHaas discuss 2019 season
Lexi Rogers, a sophomore, told herself in seventh grade she’d one day become a four-year starter for Bellefonte softball.
Those closest to her knew even before then she had a chance.
“Fifth or sixth grade,” her friend and teammate, catcher Maddie Tice, said while nodding.
Ask anyone involved in athletics around Bellefonte, and Rogers’ rise as one of the county’s top pitchers isn’t a surprise. In Little League, which Tice alluded to, she was the hard-throwing pitcher whom opponents struggled to hit; she led Bellefonte to a fourth-place finish in the state. In seventh and eighth grade, her current coach isn’t even sure she lost a game. “Everyone knew Lex,” Lady Red Raiders coach Travis Foster said. “Everyone was aware.”
Nowadays, Rogers — a sophomore poised to become a four-year starter — still isn’t much of a secret. She won more than 15 games as a freshman and so far this season, even though she’s still not 100 percent after an elbow injury, she has struck out 52 batters in 45.1 innings.
“I always strived to be the next pitcher to come through Bellefonte and help the team get better,” Rogers said.
That’s been evident since the beginning. Tice remembers how, in Little League, everyone counted out Bellefonte after losing a game — but how Rogers came back the next contest and essentially willed the team to a win. Granted, her fastball has a little more oomph to it these days — she’s been clocked as high as 64 mph, about 8-10 mph faster than the average high school pitcher — but not a lot has changed.
Rogers is still the calm, composed girl whose body language makes it hard to tell whether she just struck out 10 or gave up 10 hits. Against Central last week, Rogers lost her control and allowed seven runs in two innings. (In the other 43.1 innings she’s pitched this year, she has surrendered just eight runs.) But she never yelled, never threw a glove — just walked back to the circle each time, took a deep breath and kept going. “It’s just kind of natural,” Rogers said. “I’m just thinking about the other eight players with me.”
Later in that game, she bounced back and had a hit in the batter’s box. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, either. She’s hitting .486 this season.
“She’s very good at just stepping back, taking a moment and just recouping and being OK with everything,” said Tice, who’s been Rogers’ catcher since their Little League days. “She’s very calm.”
Rogers’ temperament is just one of the characteristics that separates her from her pitching peers. Not only is she known for her blazing fastball, one that caused Bellefonte’s backup catcher to half-jokingly talk about icing her hand after games, but her curveball might just be her best pitch. The movement on that and her screwball has frustrated plenty of county batters already.
And her work ethic is hard to top. Rogers practices extra, four or five times a week, to work on her pitching and hitting — whether it’s at the Bellefonte practice field or at the Bellefonte Sports Academy at The Rink, which her family owns. She’s been to numerous college camps hoping to fine-tune her game, from Alabama to Kentucky to Tennessee. And she was a bit of a (wanted) pest early in the season when she was injured and couldn’t play.
Can I pitch today? Well, what if I just throw a bit? No? How about hitting? That just so happens to remind Foster of another Bellefonte pitcher whom softball fans should be well-aware of — four-year starter Tara Baney, who graduated the year before Rogers became a freshman starter.
“They’re two of the most competitive kids I’ve ever coached, and this is my 20th year of coaching,” Foster said. “They work extremely hard, both of them. They’ll give you everything they got.”
Rogers and Bellefonte already have plenty of highlights to the relatively young season. Although they started 0-5 while Rogers and several other players were nursing injuries, they’ve since gone 6-2. Against Philipsburg-Osceola last week, Rogers and the Lady Red Raiders shut out the mighty Lady Mounties 5-0.
That should be a harbinger of a bright season for Bellefonte — and a shining career for Rogers.
“I want to play in the next level in college,” Rogers said “And everyone around me on the field, and off, has been helping me get there.”
Added Foster: “Her ceiling is wherever she wants it to be.”