Throughout her athletic career, Oakville junior third baseman Amanda Fitzwilliam has had a competitive athletic advantage few possess.
While plenty of training has gone into her success, the mental aspect of her athletic pursuits have been sharpened, thanks to some help from her twin sister, Kayla Fitzwilliam.
“This has been awesome,” Amanda Fitzwilliam said. “Since we're both pretty athletic, we've been able to play together and we're best friends. She runs track but she's a competitive gymnast, so that takes up a lot of her time. It's been awesome to see her succeed, especially this last year. She went to nationals for her level. It was so cool to see her take each step. It's kind of how we've been winning each step (through the playoffs). It's the same for her.”
Heading into Oakville's Class 4 quarterfinal game at Marquette at noon Saturday, Amanda will have Kayla right there — along with the rest of her family, cheering her and the Tigers on.
“I love watching her play,” Kayla Fitzwilliam said. “We do (talk) about being mentally positive and preparing before a big event — a game or a meet. They are (different) but it is important to go out there and have fun.”
It's easy to see why Amanda is having plenty of fun on the diamond.
Fitzwilliam is among Oakville's team leaders with a .467 batting average, three home runs and 28 RBI.
The great thing about Fitzwilliam, Tigers coach Rich Sturm said, is that not a single one of those individual numbers matter.
It is the number of team wins Oakville (19-8) winds up with that matters most to Fitzwilliam.
“Amanda has been a talented softball player for quite a while, but the thing to me is that her leadership has really come to fruition this year,” Sturm said. “She's extremely intelligent. She's a tremendous kid but it's the way she goes about her business and her work ethic. By nature, she's a little more on the introverted side. The softball field and her teammates bring out the best qualities in her. She wants to see the team succeed and she'll do what she can to make that happen.”
Sturm offered a bit more lofty praise for Fitzwilliam.
“All the work in, before practice, after practice, before games and all of that that people don't get to see really sets her apart,” he said. “She's really put herself in the upper echelon of, really, the greats that we've had in the program. That's really saying something.”
For her part, Fitzwilliam said she's ready for the quarterfinal because she's ready to help her teammates get Oakville back to the state semifinals for the first time since the team won the Class 4 title in 2010.
She added that everyone is aware that it was Oakville that handed Marquette, the defending Class 4 champions, its first loss of the season in a 6-5 home win Sept 6, and that she's ready to see the team go toe-to-toe again with so much on the line.
“This is very exciting. We're stoked to be able to have the opportunity to play Marquette again, especially since we beat them and it was their first loss of the season,” Amanda Fitzwilliam said. “We're really happy with how we've played and we hope we can keep that momentum going for the upcoming game.”
While Marquette is squarely in her sights, Fitzwilliam said that the whole dynamic of the season has changed with the Tigers' success.
“All year long, we've taken things one game at a time with a district title as the main goal,” Amanda Fitzwilliam said. “Now, with the way things are going, state has become the goal. We know that we've got to keep taking it one game at a time and that means focusing on Marquette. But the big goal now has become state. I think that would be awesome for this team.”
The winner of the game Saturday will advance to play the Blue Springs/Liberty winner in a Class 4 semifinal at 11 a.m. on Oct. 26 at the Killian Sports Complex in Springfield.