Bearden softball’s sister act hopes for program’s biggest year

In high school sports, it is not uncommon to see siblings playing side-by-side on the same team. Because of common interests and ease for parents, it is not even uncommon to see three sets of sisters in the same lineup. Okay, so maybe it is. Bearden softball this year boasts six girls from three families: Kiara and Kierstyn Freeman, Sarah and Emma Burklin, and Jessica and Rachael Goodson. Five of them start, and the sixth is the first to come off the bench. This surely makes for quite the team dynamic. “It’s pretty interesting to be honest, but all these kids are their own individuals,” softball Coach Leonard Sams said. And while they tend to get along great, they also have their own little rivalries. “It’s really fun because (Jessica and I) get along really well; some of the other sisters on the team, they bicker a little bit, but we’re normally all pretty good,” freshman and talented little sister Rachael Goodson said. “The older sisters want to push their little sisters harder just because it’s a family.” Due to this pushing within the family, along with a 2011 graduating class of zero players, 2012 is supposed to be an all-time great season for Bearden softball. “There is no one that can beat us except ourselves,” captain and older sister Sarah Burklin said. “We have a really good team chemistry going, and position by position we are better than anyone we are going to face this season.” The chemistry may start with the sisters, but it definitely ends with the senior class, three girls strong. “Kiara, Amanda, and I have been through everything together,” Burklin said. “(This year) is so different from any team we’ve had before because we’ve always had maybe five good players and then four holes in the field that we couldn’t fill with anyone, and we have every position filled and filled very well this year… I think it’s going to be the start of a new softball program here at Bearden.” Coaches are hired for two reasons: to build a program and win games. While Coach Sams tries to build the Bearden softball program in his fifth year, he already has a big win under his belt – an 8-4 win over Farragut on March 29 that was the Lady Bulldogs’ first win over their crosstown rivals in six years. “So far, this is by far the best we’ve started out,” Coach Sams said. The win is the highlight of the early part of the girls’ season, but with a large influx of underclassman, younger sister talent, Bearden is hoping for many more like it as the season rolls on. Even in an extremely tough district, the Bulldogs have plans for greatness. “The primary goal is getting out of district and into the region, but getting out of district might be harder than actually getting to state,” Coach Sams said. If Bearden is to make this run, it will be on the backs of their lineup, one through nine, the arms of two young pitchers with plenty of talent, and the strength of the girls’ psyche. “Pitching is a lot better than it ever has been, with Jessi (Goodson) and Dana (Steinbacher),” Coach Sams said. “We’re looking at Dana Steinbacher to improve in her consistency, and the biggest thing we’re working on is our confidence, knowing we can beat anyone in our district.” With the Freeman sisters at third base and center field, the Goodsons at right field and on the mound, and the Burklins at first base and first off the bench, the band of sisters know they can handle the district. Jacob Steimer is the sports editor for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.