Rachel Kaufman and Savannah Harweger had outstanding senior softball seasons with their Seymour and Trinity Lutheran high school teams in 2019.
Both players continued to pound this ball this year until their college seasons were cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two other Owl graduates were on college softball rosters this spring: Kalee Wall at Northland, Minnesota, and Katie Suits at Taylor University.
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Kaufman was playing at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois, and Harweger was playing at Marian University in Indianapolis. Kaufman was a designated hitter and pitcher for Lake Land, while Harweger played shortstop and was a DH at Marian.
Kaufman had 26 hits in 60 official at-bats for an average of .433 at Lake Land this spring. She had seven doubles and three home runs for a slugging percentage of .700 and scored 14 runs with 28 RBI.
“I focused on hitting the ball hard and moving runners around,” Kaufman said of her offense.
She also was one of the Lakers’ leading throwers, pitching in 16 games, starting 11 and completing five, and had a record of 10-3 with one save. She worked 67.1 innings and allowed 45 runs, of which 39 were earned for a 4.05 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 18 walks.
“I worked hard on my pitching over the winter with an assistant coach at Lake Land,” Kaufman said. “I threw a curve a lot in the spring, and my second pitch was probably my change-up.”
Kaufman said the Lakers played a lot of Division I teams in the fall and got in ahead of the virus curve with its regular season in the spring.
The Lakers were 21-4 this spring. They won 4 of 6 games in Louisiana, were 9-2 in games in Alabama and went 8-0 in games played in Tennessee at the start of their regular season.
“On our southern trips, we got to do a lot of sightseeing,” Kaufman said. “I liked that we were all able to have a tight bond from the beginning.”
Harweger played in 12 games with Marian and was 15-for-31 for a .484 average. She had one or more hits in 11 of the 12 games and was 3-for-3 with a stolen base against Florida International. She scored seven runs, had one triple, four walks and four RBI and led the team in stolen bases with seven.
“I’d say there is a pretty big difference between high school and college,” Harweger said. “In high school, you have girls that play all sports. In college, the girls are more developed and better players. In college, I saw better pitchers than in high school. I was a little surprised I hit as well as I did because it was my freshman season. I had a lot more confidence after my first game.”
Harweger said she had to learn to let pitches out of the strike zone go by for balls.
“I tried to lay off the rise ball and the drop ball,” she said. “It’s all about finding your pitch and getting a pitch you can hit. After a couple games, I got used to college pitching.”
Harweger said seven players will be leaving the team, either through graduation or for other reasons.
“I really love the team,” she said. “It’s a great group girls. It was fun while it lasted. I think we could have done very well.”
Kaufman and Harweger are teammates on a summer travel team based in Columbus, and they recently began their schedule.
“I’ve played travel ball all my life,” Harweger said. “I’ve played with the same coach the past nine years.”
Wall played third base and pitched the past two seasons at Northland, a two-year college in Minnesota. In the fall, though, she will attend William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri, and major in social work and will receive a scholarship to attend.
“I look forward to living in a new town and start on my bachelor’s degree,” Wall said. “I’ve got a liberal arts degree. At first, I was on my own going out of state to Northland, and then I started meeting girls. We played a few games in the fall, but our main season is in the spring.”
This spring, the Pioneers were 1-5 on a Florida trip when their season was cut short by the coronavirus. Northland played mainly Division III and junior varsity teams.
Wall was 6-for-17 hitting .412 with one run, three doubles and six RBI.
She was 1-2 on the mound with 25.1 innings of work and allowed 23 runs (17 earned) with five strikeouts and one walk.
The Pioneers were 24-17 in 2019. Wall pitched 25 complete games and won 18, including pitching four shutouts with 136 strikeouts and a .393 ERA.
Wall said she worked hard on her pitching.
“I can pretty much throw any pitch, and I can hit my spots,” she said. “I’m a good location pitcher. My rise ball and change-up are my best pitches.”
She carried a .339 batting average with 38 hits, including seven doubles and two home runs, scored 17 runs and had 33 RBI.
Wall was a Minnesota Collegiate Athletic Conference all-state selection in 2019 and was named to the all-northern Minnesota College Division team and the all-region 13 B squad. She also was selected as an NJCAA Division III Fastpitch News all-American.
Wall said the cold winters in Minnesota mean the snow lasts well into the spring.
“We didn’t get to practice too often on our field,” she said.
Plus, she discovered college softball is different from high school.
“It is faster-paced against better athletes,” she said. “It’s a good experience, and I’m lucky to get to continue playing for two more years.”
Suits was in her junior year at Taylor. The team was 11-3 this spring, and she had played in one game and was 1-for-1 batting.
She played in several junior varsity games her sophomore year after playing in 13 varsity games as a freshman and was 6-for-25 batting for a .240 average with two doubles and three RBI.