April 2, 2010
Daugherty Thrives With New Role, New Team
By now, most Bearcat fans have gotten to know the many new faces on Northwest's softball team. Three of them, in fact, are batting better than .400 and six can be found throughout the team's starting lineup.
Kit Daugherty is in her first season with the team after playing the last two years at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge. She's batting .333 and made headlines Monday after belting a walk-off grand slam to complete Northwest's sweep of Missouri Southern. It was her second home run during her current six-game hitting streak.
In a sign of respect rarely seen in collegiate athletics, Daugherty, who had yet to play a collegiate game in a Bearcat jersey, was voted one of three team captains by her teammates. The other two, Erin Leslie and Kaila Ballard, are in their fourth seasons with the program.
"I wasn't surprised," said Northwest head coach Ryan Anderson. "She has one speed when she steps on the field and that's what everyone else saw. She wants to work hard, she wants to play hard."
Anderson knew he needed upperclassmen to compliment a recruiting class of nine freshmen and Daugherty fit the bill. She hit well over .400 in her two seasons at Iowa Central, helped the Tritons to a fifth-place finish at nationals and in the process, became the first player to steal home in the tournament.
"I talked to her coach and a number of coaches she played against and they all had good things to say," said Anderson. "Getting to know her, you could tell she was competitive and that's what we were looking for."
Daugherty was sold on Northwest after first stepping foot in Maryville. She even cancelled two subsequent visits to other schools she planned to look at.
"My younger brother, Lance, is my best friend and I noticed right away that Coach Anderson's personality is a lot like his," said Daugherty. "He cares about you as a person, not just an athlete, and that's really what I wanted."
It was a player-coach interaction just before Daugherty's grand slam that set the stage Monday. Anderson rarely calls timeout, but he asked for one before Daugherty took the box.
"Actually, I wanted the timeout," said Daugherty. "I just wanted to catch my breath. I hadn't had a hit yet, and in typical sarcastic fashion he asked, 'are you ready to hit today?' Then he said seriously, 'you've been waiting for this moment all season. Go up there and hit the ball.' Then I was okay."
Daugherty grew up playing in the infield and spent quite a bit of time catching at Iowa Central, yet somehow Anderson convinced her to try right field.
"I wasn't excited to play the outfield at first, but I really enjoy it now," said Daugherty. "You get to make a lot of diving plays and that's become my favorite part.
"You don't often get to start when you play somewhere new, but I really wanted to play. Learning a new position has allowed me to do that."
Daugherty has thrown two players out from right field this season. She takes extra balls in practice and Anderson said she's improved with every game she's played.
"She's making all the plays we need her to right now," said Anderson.
Daugherty was a three-time all-state honoree at Knoxville High School in Iowa and was named the school's Female Athlete of the Year in 2007. She went on to earn NFCA All-America honors as a freshman at Iowa Central after hitting .411 with 13 homers, 68 RBIs and 66 runs scored. She also stole 33 bases.
Year two was almost totally scratched with a broken hand, but Daugherty returned in time to play the postseason. It's one of numerous injuries she's battled through.
"I broke my foot as a junior in high school and couldn't compete in the state track meet," said Daugherty. "I broke my hand sliding into second at Iowa Central. This year I twisted my ankle on the first-base bag in a game and I'm told I have a labral tear in my shoulder. I guess I have the whole summer not to play."
Daugherty is studying psychology and praises the flexibility granted by Northwest professors during the season. She'll serve as an assistant softball coach this summer at a school near Knoxville.
This weekend, the focus is on Washburn (Saturday) and nationally-ranked Emporia State (Sunday). Northwest enters the weekend riding an eight-game win streak - the team's longest since 2006. The team has averaged 10.5 runs and had no fewer than 11 hits in those eight games.
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