May 4, 2005 - Alicia Hunolt will take home two souvenirs from her final regular season game in an Ironwood Ridge High School girls softball uniform - one is a welt on her thigh, the other, a bruise on her foot.
"I've been hit many times," said Hunolt, who dismisses the two pitches that struck her in her first two at bats against Rincon on April 27 at Ironwood Ridge as "just a part of the game."
Whether it's absorbing or doling out the hits, Hunolt has bruised her way to a standout high school career as catcher for the Nighthawks.
In her first full injury-free high school season, Hunolt hit .495 with 18 singles, 18 doubles and four homeruns. In 91 plate appearances, the senior struck out just seven times.
"She definitely pumps me up," said Hunolt's battery mate and
staff ace Brittany Koehler. "When I first met her I was pretty scared. But once you get to know her she's the sweetest person."
Hunolt hasn't always been a softball player at heart. Her first love has been, and probably always will be, baseball.
"Baseball has always been my first choice," Hunolt said.
When Hunolt was growing up, her family bounced around from places like Germany to Hawaii, Texas, Arkansas and Tucson. Hunolt's first taste of baseball on a global scale came while her father was stationed in Germany at the Ramstein Air Force Base. While playing second base for the Ramstein Air Base Little League in 1999, Hunolt became the seventh girl to play in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. To get to Williamsport, Hunolt's squad first had to advance through a German regional tournament and a qualifying round in Poland. Although the team didn't fare well in the 10-team tourney, said Hunolt, the experience was incomparable.
Hunolt's career on the baseball diamond reached a boiling point, however, when she was asked to leave the field during a Wilson Middle School eighth grade game at Amphitheater Middle School simply because she was a girl.
"If you can play, you should be allowed," said Hunolt of the difference between boys and girls playing baseball. Ultimately, Hunolt knew this day was coming.
"I knew I was going to have to play softball at some time," said Hunolt, who begrudgingly took up softball in high school.
Once she corralled the quickness of softball games, the new grip of the ball and shorter stroke of the bat, Hunolt was able to transform her game from baseball second baseman to power-slugging softball catcher.
On the field for the Nighthawks (26-3, 14-0), Hunolt is a quiet role model letting her bat and glove set the tone for the team.
"She's a silent leader," said IRHS head coach Randy Anway. "Both my seniors are."
Michelle McLain is the other senior on this year's Nighthawk squad.
Hunolt will need leadership skills at the next level. On July 6, she will report to the Coast Guard's Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I., which she will attend on a softball scholarship.
Softball will be the vessel that takes her to many more exciting new spots throughout the world, but baseball will always flow in her blood. Last year, she took part in a 24-hour woman's baseball marathon game held at Tucson Electric Park. The game, a charity function to raise money for AIDS victims in Africa, was an exhibition played in shifts as one enormous daylong game.
Back on the softball diamond, the transition from high school to collegiate softball shouldn't be a tough one for Hunolt. Anway's regimen at IRHS was designed based on those of the University of Arizona's and Pima Community College's softball teams to mirror that of a college program, including long practices and mandatory hours in the weight room.
"The practices, I'll remember the most," said Hunolt of her time spent at IRHS, "because we work harder than anyone else."