April 25, 2012
Northwest softball readies for MIAA Tournament
By David Boyce
From taking finals during the week to playing in the upcoming MIAA Softball Tournament on Thursday, Northwest Missouri State junior designated hitter Kayli Schurman is experiencing the full range of being a student-athlete at a NCAA Division II university.
A year ago, Schurman was smacking home runs for Muscatine Community College in Iowa. She sent 14 balls over the fence as a sophomore and 18 as a freshman.
“I knew she could pound the ball,” Northwest coach Ryan Anderson said. “When she is an aggressive hitter, she is tough to get out. That is what I wanted her for, to have another significant hitter in the lineup.”
Schurman has provided pop in the Bearcats lineup. She enters the conference tournament with a .321 average, a team-leading 15 home runs and 39 RBIs.
As a finance majors, Schurman probably had to take a final or two that deals with other numbers.
The finals period is usually a bit stressful for all students. It’s part of college life.
Schurman embraces it all.
“My life doesn’t consist of just playing softball,” she said. “I get to experience the people, the school and sports you can go to and being on campus and feel like you are going to a real school.”
The conference tournament was one of the things Schurman really wanted to participate in.
During her junior college days, Schurman’s team automatically qualified. It’s different in the MIAA. Only the top eight teams get in; three stay home.
Northwest needed to finish strong to earn the No. 7 seed. The Bearcats, 19-29 overall, takes on No. 2 seed Missouri Western, 38-9, at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Blue Valley Sports Complex in Overland Park, Kan.
“I’m very excited,” Schurman said. “In my mind I don’t want to miss out on this opportunity to be in a conference tournament at this level. I wanted to experience the tournament and see what it is like.
“For the most part, everybody is pretty excited. Me personally, I know we can beat them. It is just coming with the mentality of being ready to hit the ball.”
The MIAA Softball Tournament is a fun and intense time for the players.
“It is such a close conference that many of these kids had rivalries in high school with kids on other teams,” Anderson said. “They already know them when they go to college so there are those rivalries and then there are the rivalries of the individual colleges.
“I think that’s what makes the softball tournament unique. Anybody can beat anybody.”
It is the mentality the Bearcats need to take into their games. The double-elimination tournament runs Thursday through Saturday.
Northwest is entering the tournament playing some of its best softball of the season. The Bearcats concluded the regular season winning four of their last five games, including an impressive 12-4 victory over Fort Hays State, which finished third in the MIAA.
“I definitely feel we have peaked at the right time,” Schurman said. “Our defense has come together. Our offense is stringing it together, getting timely hits and not one hit one inning and one hit the next. We are playing well going into it.”
Schurman is also swinging the bat well. In Northwest’s last regular-season game, a 5-3 victory over Sioux Falls, Schurman hit a two-run homer.
Schurman said it took her a while to adjust to pitching at the Division II level. She quickly learned that pitchers at the Division II level throw different pitches than pitchers in junior college.
“She has had her share of slumps this year,” Anderson said. “Her biggest way to get out of it is she had to keep swinging the bat. She had to keep staying aggressive.”
Anderson wants his entire team to stay aggressive.
“I hope we can keep the aggressive mindset and go in swinging,” he said. “If they are going to throw strikes, we might as well hit them.
“It seems like, especially the last two weeks or so, we are our biggest rival. If we can step up to the plate and attack the ball, we can hit. If we sit back and wait for the strikes to be called, we become a defensive hitting a team, a little more timid.
“Mo West is going to be tough and then we have either Pitt or Hays after that. At this point in the season, anybody is tough.”
“We have to take care of ourselves, regardless of the opponent, the pitcher or anything like that. We have to take care of what we can control. In games we do that we are fine.”
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