Junior Colleen Markussen has been pitching for the Del Norte varsity softball team for three years now, and every year, she has been able to depend on senior catcher Kiera Davis behind the plate. This year, the pitcher-catcher duo has taken on more responsibility than ever before.
Markussen is the Warriors’ only pitcher this season, throwing all 91 innings of Del Norte’s season so far. In addition to the extra workload, Markussen has been working with Davis to call their own pitches.
Del Norte head coach Tom Moore said it is the first time he has given that responsibility to his players. Although Moore said that sometimes he still suggests pitches, 99 percent of the time he leaves it up to the girls.
“We try to pay attention to the batters stance and how they hit,” Davis explained. “Then we decide what kind of pitch we want and where we want to throw it, to try to get a strikeout or at least an out.”
Markussen and Davis have had considerable success with calling pitches too. Markussen has struck out 83 hitters and issued just 25 walks en route to a 1.39 ERA so far this year.
“They have both worked extremely hard for me,” Moore said. “Kiera is the hardest worker that I have, to be honest with you. She works her butt off out here, and she also has over a 4.0.”
Davis has been playing catcher since she started softball at the age of 11. She also played at third base some in little league, but she has always felt more at home behind the plate. She said she especially liked the control over the game that the catcher position provided.
“It just always seemed like fun to me,” Davis said. “When we were younger, there weren’t a lot of people that wanted to do it, so I volunteered and I just ended up liking it.”
Athletically, Davis is well suited behind the plate.
“She is an all-around athlete as well,” Moore said. “She could play anywhere. She throws the hardest on the team overhand. Just playing catch with her, every throw is hard.”
Markussen also started out behind the plate. She played catcher in little leagues when she started at the age of 6 until she was 10 years old. Then she made the switch to pitching.
“My parents, who were coaching me, needed me to pitch to help out with the team that I was on — the Braves,” Markussen said. “I got better as I kept pitching and I liked it. I like the competitiveness and the mindset of being a pitcher.”
That competitive mindset is one of Markussen’s best qualities as a pitcher, Moore said.
“A lot of pitchers, when they throw a couple games, are tired by the end of the day,” Moore said. “It just seems like she gets better at hitting her marks the longer she throws.”
Markussen’s win-loss record has taken a hit this season. At the midway point of the year, the Markussen is sitting at 6-10 overall. But she has put the Warriors in position to win consistently this year.
Markussen has had 96 runs scored against her in 91 innings, but only 18 of those runs were earned. The Warriors defense has struggled with errors this season, but Moore has repeatedly praised Markussen for not letting those errors effect her pitching.
Both Markussen and Davis, along with senior short stop Ericka Alcala, have taken over the bulk of the leadership role for the team this year, according to Moore. Markussen and Davis both perfer to lead by example, however, rather than through yelling or beraiting players.
“Kiera has been quite since I have coached her,” Moore said. “She has never said anything negative, she takes everything and runs with it.
“Colleen is quite — quite and bubbly,” he ammended. “She has always got a smile on her face. She works well with her teammates and she is good at talking to her teammates about situations, but she is pretty quite as well.”
Still, Davis and Markussen help point the way with their effort and hustle.
“I try to be a supportive leader,” Markussen said. “I don’t really boss people around. I just want to motivate people and not bring them down. Kiera is pretty much the same.”
That leadership style seems to be working, according to Moore, who said that this team is full of girls that work hard and stay positive — every coaches dream.
“It is a lot of fun coaching those girls,” Moore said. “They have their fun and games, but when it comes to being serious, they will get down to it and they will stay with it until the end.”