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Baer’s best year at the right time

Darin Olde, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Hitting peak performance as she approaches her final year, Kathryn “Kat” Baer hopes to see the Lewis and Clark softball team ascend to first place next year in the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference.

With three fifth-place finishes in conference so far, earning a higher spot would make a fitting end to her softball career.

The Lewis and Clark Pioneers recruited Baer after she graduated from South Tahoe High School in 1999, where she played varsity ball under Rich Barna.

After batting .280 as a freshman, Baer’s hitting average went from .208 last year to .320, the third best for the team. Combined with an .883 fielding percentage, she had her best year in softball.

“I responded a lot better to the coaching style of our new head coach (Jennifer Piper). I also messed with my stance a little bit,” Baer said.

The Pioneers finished fifth behind the Willamette Bearcats, the Linfield Wildcats, the Puget Sound Loggers and Pacific Lutheran’s Lutes. The team went 11-25-1 overall.

For a while, the international affairs major and former Viking was hitting close to .400, which is nearly double her hitting performance last year — hardly the average expected from the last batter in the order.

In a school that’s known more for academics than athletics, the performance earned the third baseman some recognition from her teammates.

“The girls are like my family away from family,” Baer said. “We all get along so well. We all trust each other and there is such camaraderie there.”

In 103 at-bats, Baer hit 33 times and scored nine runs. She was fourth for her team in RBIs at 16.

Heading into her senior year, Baer is focused more on academics and what lies ahead rather than dwelling on her statistics on the field.

“I choose D-III, because softball isn’t really your life, and you don’t have the monetary commitment to play the game,” she said. “Most of us are here to get a good education before we become softball players.”

After graduating, Baer said she will take a year off and then possibly return to graduate school. Pro softball is not an option.

Still, as one of six seniors, she knows the competition. With six seniors, and with the help of some new pitchers, Baer said they may have a shot at No. 1 next year.

“For next year, we have one new pitcher. We might get two more from transfer. If we can get these three pitchers, I think we’ll be vying for No. 1 — finally.”


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