THE END OF AN ERA
A few cracks of the bat and that was it.
The end may have been fairly anti-climatic and quiet for a pair of decorated seniors, but it was still a fitting testament to their abilities, nevertheless.
Paton-Churdan graduates and Greene County sporting mainstays Megan Carey and Jenna Beyers each recorded hits in their final at-bats last week, closing the door on journeys that produced several hundred hits and more than 1,000 points and some 800 or so kills.
The two Paton-Churdan seniors have been key cogs in the Greene County and P-C athletic departments for the past five years, and though they unfortunately were often met with somewhat discouraging postseason finishes, they continually produced.
The duo went out the only way they knew how despite Greene County’s 11-1 loss to West Marshall in the softball regionals July 10.
Down to what wound up being their last at-bats in the top of the sixth inning, Carey and Beyers each produced game-extending singles, two of the four hits Greene County mustered all night long. As the only two seniors on the Ram squad, it was a great way to cap off historic careers.
Greene County softball coach Tom Kennedy also coached the girls in volleyball the past two years and basketball for the past three. He grew to expect the hard-working example they constantly set.
“I knew I was always going to see and work with them,” the coach said. “The program will miss them. They were good players and better kids.”
The pair regularly found themselves honored during awards season for three different sports, as they dominated court time in volleyball and basketball and kept the offense chugging along in softball. Carey was consistently among the Rolling Valley Conference’s top hitters in volleyball, while Beyers was one of the strongest interior players on the basketball court, leading the Paton-Churdan Rockets in scoring two of the last three years, never once averaging less than 10 points per game in her career.
Carey was Greene County’s lead-off batter from the moment she became a slap hitter, by the urging of Kennedy, naturally. Carey was a success the very first year she made the switch as a freshman, tallying a batting average of .429, collecting a conference-best 45 hits, which tied her with then teammate Carleigh Paup.
Carey never tallied an average of less than .330 while she manned centerfield on defense.
“She became really good, really fast (as a slap hitter),” Kennedy said. “But where I think she really improved the most was on defense and jumps. She was amazing this year getting to balls.”
Beyers was one of Greene County’s more valuable run producers in addition to her role at one of the game’s toughest positions, shortstop. She was a mark of consistency, becoming a formidable force in the center of Greene County’s offense.
“Jenna (Beyers) continued to progress every year. She just got better,” Kennedy said. “She had to do a lot of things for us, and she even played some pitcher and play short. When she was an eighth-grader, she played some outfield. She cut down on her strikeouts, became a better hitter and had a really good year. They both have been outstanding for us.”
The senior duo never let their success overtake their work ethic, as they kept growing as players each summer. That aspect alone is what Kennedy feels will be their lasting impact.
“We are going to miss what they brought to practice everyday. They were two of the hardest working kids that I’ve coached,” the coach said. “They did every drill. They used every practice to work hard and try to get better. They were such good examples for the kids on how to be a good player. Hopefully they learn from that.”
Carey finished with 159 career hits and 120 total runs scored.
Byers was no slouch either, tallying 117 career hits, as well as 88 RBI and 83 runs scored.
The veteran duo helped lead the Rams out of an 0-8 hole to start the 2019 season, which saw the Rams finish the year on a .500 tear, ripping off 10 wins in their next 20 games, good for a 10-18 overall record.
“They are just quality kids,” Kennedy said. “And I think that’s what helped us rebound.
As good of players they were, they were better kids. They are going to have real success in their lives.”
Carey finished off her senior year collecting 39 hits and scoring 32 times, maintaining a team-best batting average of .406. Beyers knocked in 18 runs to go with 28 hits and an average of .341.
Their relative sporting dominance was witnessed throughout the school year four the past five years.
Beyers scored 979 points in basketball while Carey tallied 687 career kills in volleyball. Carey dished out a team-best and a career high 102 assists this past winter while Beyers averaged 6.7 rebounds per game, capping a stellar rebounding career. Beyers never averaged less than six rebounds per game, securing a total of 644 rebounds across four years. Carey tallied 252 career assists.
Beyers will attend DMACC in Boone while Carey will head east to the University of Northern Iowa. While neither has plans to pursue sports at the next level, Kennedy hopes the girls give it an extra thought before they hang it up for good.
“I’m trying to talk them into it,” the coach said. “A lot of times when you play a lot of sports, it’s tough to make that transition (to focus on one).”
Regardless, they left an impact in Greene County.