Kendall Rauk pitched throughout youth softball but most of her time with the varsity softball team at Missoula Big Sky had been spent at first base.
Until last week.
The freshman started her first two games pitching in the Eagles’ blues Saturday, both complete game victories in a double dip with the Helena high schools in Missoula. Big Sky coach Dennis Staves was so impressed with the freshman, he decided to keep her in the circle again Tuesday for the team’s next game with Missoula Hellgate.
The coaches had been watching her closely in the early season, Staves said then. With a young pitching staff throwing without consistency, the emergence of an effective inning-eater would earn that pitcher a bulk of the load.
“I’ve been practicing but I haven’t really been put in, mostly playing first,” said Rauk, who threw briefly in relief during jamboree play during the preseason. “But now I think I’ve proved to them that I can pitch.
It was more of the same Tuesday as Rauk threw a four-hitter and shut down the Knights in a 4-2 victory, pushing Big Sky back above .500 on the season to 6-5. At 3-2 in Western AA play, all three conference victories have come with Rauk pitching.
Rauk has a youthful energy on the field and a confidence that’s growing behind three quick wins. She’s got the goods, but some things only experience can account for. That’s where her catcher, senior Jesse Schafer, comes into play.
The veteran has helped Rauk develop this season. The key was embracing the pitcher’s personality, harnessing it to lead her and the team in the right direction.
“We definitely go in with a fun mindset; just kind of relax, have fun,” Schafer said. “She’s been throwing good like that so as long as she keeps it up, she can keep being a goofball.”
And the Eagles can keep winning.