It’s the first thing an opposing pitcher sees when facing the Portage Northern softball lineup: a left-handed hitter with face paint akin to something NFL Hall of Famer John Randle wore in the 1990’s.
Whether the warpaint has anything to do with it or not, Hannah Biddlecome has certainly been striking fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers all year, as the senior has been the anchor of the Portage Northern offense.
“We like to say it blocks the sun from your eyes,” Biddlecome says of the extra eye black that she, and other teammates, wear each game. “But personally, it’s more of a superstitious thing. When it’s a hot day out and we’re playing a good team, the war paint just makes me feel more intimidating.”
It could be the eye black that makes her intimidating; or, the stat sheet, which Biddlecome has filled up this season. Everything a team would want in a leadoff hitter, Biddlecome checks off the list. She’s hitting .578 (a team high), has 15 extra-base hits, has stolen 30 bases, and has scored 53 runs (also a team high).
Biddlecome signed a letter of intent to play softball for Calvin College next year, and she’s played on varsity since her sophomore year. Everyone thought they knew what to expect.
But they didn’t expect this.
“She’s taken like 10 ‘next steps,’” says head coach Ed Bowe, who can’t help but light up a bit when talking about his starting center fielder. “She’s always had the potential and the athleticism, but somehow she put it all together this year. Really, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a kid improve so much.”
For Biddlecome, that improvement hasn’t come overnight. In fact, she says it has been three years in the making.
“When I was brought up to varsity as a sophomore, at the beginning of the season, I did not do too well,” Biddlecome said. “It might have just been nerves, or experience, but I didn’t have the best season. I worked on it and came back junior year even better. This season especially, I have grown. Last year, it was working more on confidence, and sophomore season, it was working on skill. This year I have got both together and its really clicking with my team and the games.
When [coach Bowe] says I improved a ton, it’s just now I go up there and I’m confident I’m able to get a hit for my team. I’m not worried about pressure or anything like that, I know I can get a hit for my team.”
A base hit is only where the trouble begins for opponents. Biddlecome leads the Huskies in stolen bases, where she has snagged 30 bags on 33 attempts. While Biddlecome does have 15 extra-base hits this season (1 home run, 9 doubles, 6 triples), it is the ability to turn a single into something more, that really helps get the Portage Northern offense in motion.
“Her baserunning is unbelievable,” Bowe said. “She is electrifying. When she gets on base, we win. It just lights the whole lineup up.
“When she gets on, leading off the game, she usually steals second and she’s home before you know it, and we have the lead. It’s almost impossible to field her when she puts the ball in play.”
The speed displayed on the base paths translates well to her center field position, where Biddlecome has put on a highlight reel of home run-erasing plays and other gems. But it is stealing bases that Biddlecome takes the most pride in.
“I absolutely love baserunning,” she says. “Especially having white pants, I just love getting dirty. It’s fun sliding, whether it is head first or feet first. Stealing is just the best – taking something from the other team.”
Biddlecome recently had something taken away from her, albeit temporarily. Her father, Scott, who has had a big influence on her softball career, recently relocated to Dallas, Texas due to work.
“It’s been a lot harder than I originally though it was going to be … especially being my last season” Biddlecome said. “He’s always the one I go to. He watches me and corrects me when I do something wrong. I don’t really trust anyone else like that to chat with them about the games.”
On the eve of a recent crosstown rivalry matchup with Portage Central, Scott came home to visit. Suddenly, one of the most dangerous players in the area had a crucial piece of her arsenal back.
“Now that he’s back for the last stride of the season, it’s going to help me a lot,” Biddlecome said. “I feel a lot better now that he’s here.”
That’s an intimidating thought. No eye black required.