The Hermiston softball team paid tribute to its late coach Tom Bequette in a number of different ways before, during and after Friday’s doubleheader sweep of Post Falls, Idaho.

Before the game, etched out in foul line chalk, were the initials, “TB,” in front of the home dugout serving as a reminder to every player that coach was still around.

Coaches Saul Castro and David Drotzmann wore stickers on their hats, also with the initials printed on them in white block type against a black background.

Those stickers were also placed on the back of every batting helmet a Dawg wore.

There were also homemade ribbons in each of the players’ hair that read “Stud-ete,” which was a popular nickname Bequette gave to virtually everyone on the team at some point from the third-base coaches’ box.

“He would always say, ‘Here comes my stud-ete,’ when we would go up to the plate,” senior outfielder Maloree Moss said. “It loosened us up when we hit and it gave us a little bit of confidence, too.”

An American flag also flew over Rocky Heights Elementary School’s softball field at half-mast to honor Bequette’s service in the military a day before a celebration of life ceremony packed the chapel at Burns Mortuary in Hermiston, but from what I saw, the softball team paid tribute to their former coach the way he would have wanted.

They played hard, and won.

Bequette was all about leaving it all out on the playing field. And while this wasn’t the best Post Falls team Hermiston has faced over the past three seasons, they still played with a purpose and seemed to not let the pre-game emotions get to them.

After all, Bequette had already taught them how to play softball, so really they were just doing what he had been telling them.

While Bequette’s death is definitely one of those tragedies no one wants to deal with, or really even think about dealing with, the team has handled it pretty well.

It would have been easy for the team to shut down and not play the opening games Friday, and no one would have blamed them, either.

Playing with a heavy heart, and knowing you will be attending memorial services for a loved one the next day on top of that, isn’t an easy thing to do — but the softball team sure made it look like it was.

“These girls had such a bond with him. Tom knew how to communicate with them and was out here for the kids,” Hermiston interim head coach Saul Castro said. “Personally for me, Tom was like a brother. We’ve coached a long time, and he coached my kid [HHS junior varsity coach Candice Castro] since she was 9 years old.”

With all the ways the team carried the memory of its coach, anyone who knew Bequette — including the girls that played for him — knew deep down there was only one way to truly make sure Bequette’s passion and enthusiasm for the game would be honored.

It was for his team to take to the field and play its best. That was all he ever wanted.

As the schedule becomes a little more tough with a spring break tournament in Clackamas, along with what is looking like a very competitive Columbia River Conference schedule (one of the few sports the conference as a whole is good at), the team is going to have to channel the energy they had Friday and use it every time they set foot on the infield dirt.

Whether it’s the physical reminders of the ribbons, the helmet stickers or a chalk drawing in front of the dugout, the players will have to convert that into mental toughness and grit in order to ultimately deliver a conference championship and deep run into the playoffs.

Hard work breeds success, and no one knew how to get the most out of his players through that than Bequette.

His initials are on this program more than just stickers and chalk. They are on everything the team does.

Billy is the sports editor for the Hermiston Herald. Write to him at bgates@hermistonherald.com and follow him on Twitter under the handle @BillyGatesHH.

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