Out of her league

Junior Katt Cooper recently pitched a career high game of 15 strikeouts. Cooper leads the Sunflower League in strikeouts, making her a NW softball legend.

Cooper first got interested in pitching in the second grade.

“It’s actually a funny story,” Cooper said.

When playing 10 & under softball, Cooper played against another recreational team, and at this level, every player on the team had to take turns pitching. When it was Cooper’s turn, every player left the plate only after getting hit by a pitch.

photo by Aaron Messick

“I hit the entire team. I hit all of them; literally, one after another,” Cooper said. “All of the girls were crying and the parents were yelling at me. One of the parents on my team came over to my dad and goes, ‘you should probably get her pitching lessons.’”Cooper’s father did get her pitching lessons, and she began pitching competitively the next year.

In the past, Cooper trained with Mila Ellsworth, one of the best pitchers in the state of Kansas. Ellsworth transferred from Georgia State University, after earning TAAC All-Conference Honors, to Florida International University, where she set multiple pitching records.

“She is probably the best pitching coach you will find in Kansas. Anybody that’s decent has gone to her,” Cooper said. “In the beginning, the only reason my dad and I would ever go to a pitching coach was if we needed to learn something new or needed to reevaluate what we are doing. We didn’t go there to actually pitch; we went there to work on something.”

Cooper depends on her dad to fix her mistakes and develop her pitching technique more than any coach.

“I would never go by myself,” Cooper said. “My dad always has to be there because he’s the one that takes away from it because he’s the one that sees me pitch, and he’s the one that sees me make the mistakes. He’s the one that corrects me.”

Cooper’s favorite part of pitching is the control she feels when she is on the mound.

“I don’t like being out of control,” Cooper said. “I also don’t think when I pitch because when you think, you make mistakes.”

Cooper’s weakness, she said, is when an umpire will not give her the calls she needs at the most crucial moments.

“ when I have an umpire who will not give me the outside corner. I hit it perfectly; my dad stands behind the backstop, watches me throw a curveball outside, and they call it a ball and the girl walks,” Cooper said. “That’s what makes me mad: when umpires give away outs.”

However, umpires that don’t make the calls she wants are not a problem for Cooper this season. She is leading the league in strikeouts. Two other Olathe East pitchers are in second with 40 strikeouts each — Cooper has 83.

The Cougar softball team’s record stands at nine wins and four losses. Cooper credits this partially to the performances of juniors Emily Utech and Haley Waters this year.

“ has had a phenomenal season batting. She’s leading the league in doubles. The way Emily’s been hitting, my parents have been saying she’s going to break the record ,” Cooper said. “Haley’s bat is on fire, too. Her and Emily are doing really well.”

Cooper relies on these two teammates to keep her calm and help her stay focused. She also credits junior Bailey Letts offering her comfort when she’s on the mount.

“She’s my best friend, and she’s not afraid to tell me when I suck,” Cooper said.

The reason why Cooper plays softball is to hopefully receive scholarships for her performance on the field to help aid her in college expenses. She hopes to attend Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan., and major in creative writing while playing softball for her college team.