MARYSVILLE — Overcast skies, cold temperatures and a chance of rain kept the Marysville softball team indoors Tuesday.
But the change of scenery did not dampen the morale of the Vikings. And as the music played lightly on the second day of practice, no one was more thrilled to be back than senior second baseman Kate Westmiller.
“Everyone is really excited,” Westmiller said. “A lot of seniors are just happy that we have this. During (the coronavirus pandemic), we didn’t know if we were going to have a normal softball season. But we did. I think we’re all just grateful. “
Westmiller is a softball addict. She never tires of the game.
“Kate has an incredible work ethic,” Marysville coach Ryan Rathje said. “She loves softball and is always perfecting her craft and putting in extra time in all parts of her game.”
But all those hours of work aren’t just for his benefit. Westmiller helps with the program’s summer camps and creates drills for his teammates during the offseason.
“Two years ago we had practices in the fall,” Rathje said. “So she kept organizing it with times each week where we could have everyone. She did typing drills, pitch drills and put a video in our Google Classroom for everyone to work on. .”
Rathje added: “She is always thinking about others and how she can make those around her better.”
Westmiller certainly makes Vikings better. She was instrumental in Marysville’s run to the Division 2 State Finals last year.
“I’m not a power hitter, but I have good speed,” Westmiller said. “I handle the basics pretty well.”
“At home plate, she can hit all kinds of throws,” Rathje said. “A lot of times she’s our first hitter and shows us we can do it against all types of pitches. She gets up there with a lot of confidence and gets us started.”
“She’s an incredible player and one of my best friends,” said Marysville center fielder Kaitlyn Cain. “She’s really good in the field and catches a lot.”
Few things get past the infielder. Westmiller is only 5-foot-4 but covers a lot of ground.
“His defense is incredible,” Rathje said. “I think for a lot of people the moment changes the way they do it. Kate – it doesn’t matter if she has to go really fast or not – she just does one thing at a time and (does it) perfectly. She’s unfazed under pressure.”
His composure was shown in last season’s Division 2 quarter-final against Linden. Marysville held on for a 3-1 victory, mostly thanks to their defense. The second baseman made multiple dive stops and threw runners on first base late in the game.
“She dives everywhere,” Rathje said. “Usually her jersey is full of dirt during the pre-game because she’s going full speed and only knows one way to do it.”
Although this is Westmiller’s final season as a Viking, it’s not the end of his softball career. She will continue to play for Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia next year.
Despite being 700 miles from Marysville, the eldest should feel right at home. Westmiller lived in Virginia when she was younger. While there, she even attended fast softball camps in Longwood.
“But when I went back to Michigan in 7th grade, they really only recruited Southern girls,” Westmiller said.
So it came as a surprise last December when her recruiting agent called to tell her that a certain school was interested.
“She told me it was Longwood and my jaw dropped to the floor,” Westmiller said. “I was like, ‘No way.’ “I grew up playing in this field. That’s where I fell in love with the game. So the fact that I can end my career there, it’s amazing. I’m so excited to be able to do this.
“It’s really cool to see a player like that – who loves softball so much – get a chance to continue doing it at the next level,” Rathje said.
“She’s been playing travel softball for a really long time,” Cain said. “And she works really hard at it. It’s cool that all her hard work has paid off.”
“I can keep doing what I love for the next four years,” Westmiller said. “I am beyond blessed.”
Westmiller and Marysville are scheduled to start their season April 17 at home against Almont.
Contact Brenden Welper at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BrendenWelper.