By Lenny Sementi
No one has worked harder at her craft than Kaitlyn Reifsteck. The ace of Tuscola’s softball team had her junior season slowly ripped away from her this past spring due to the pandemic. She was one of the top hurlers in the area as a sophomore earning a spot on the Central Illinois Conference first team All League squad with an 18-3 record.
The first baseman when not pitching was poised for a breakout junior season chasing program records after posting a miniscule .905 ERA that included 205 strikeouts while walking just 13 in 25 appearances. She also was swinging the bat for the Warriors in the middle of the lineup posting a pair of homeruns while banging our 16 RBI’s and a .318 batting average.
March 13, 2020 Reifsteck and her teammates in black and gold walked off the field after practice thinking the pandemic would cost them the first two weeks of the season. That turned into four then six and then the cancellation of it followed. Midway through June however she was lucky enough to get back on the diamond playing for the 18U Mattoon Pride. She was joined in the endeavor by the Lady Warrior’s third baseman Jessie Martin and her father Tim Reifsteck who served as an assistant coach for the Pride. Together they played a few warm up games before traveling to three or four tournaments earning a spot in the NSA World Series in Gulf Shores Alabama.
“Being able to have my dad as a coach has always been special to me. When I pitch a no hitter he does too. When I strike a girl out it’s like he did it too,” stated the pitcher. “We’re a team out there. It’s something that I will miss most about travel ball even though we both bud heads at times, it’s something that I will cherish forever and we can both look back on.”
Kaitlyn shined allowing just two opposing runners to cross the dish at Nationals in 17 and 1/3 innings striking out 14 batters. Earned the MVP pitching award for the tournament ending with an ERA of .80. Her bat did more than its fair share of the damage blasting a double and 7 hits in 12 at bats for .371 average. Martin was solid at the plate as well ending the tourney with a .305-average.
The Pride ended the tournament with a 6-1 record overall doubling the run tally of their opponents scoring 36 runs, and allowing just 18 including. One of those came early in a 3-1 victory in the title game versus the Indiana Shockwave. After giving up the early lead Reifsteck shut down the Indiana squad allowing the Pride to secure the come from behind victory.
“Kate was overpowering,” stated Pride Head Coach Jay Hopper. “Once she had the lead it was over.”
When asked about her ability to just play this summer and the future Reifstack responded quickly, “ I was thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to play ball this summer especially with how things were with COVID. It was very exciting to win the World Series, we worked hard all summer as a team and it felt amazing to finish it off with a win. Each day you never know what’s going to happen or get taken away like our high school season, so you have to attack every chance you get, I just hope we get a chance to play this spring.”