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06/09/2023 07:27 AM

Kolber the Ultimate Utility Rookie for Valley Softball

Freshman Kellyn Kolber made an immediate impact this spring for the Valley Regional softball team, hitting for a .494 on-base percentage as the Warriors’ lead-off hitter while playing third base, the outfield, shortstop, and pitching. Photo courtesy of Kellyn Kolber

Playing on varsity as a freshman can be daunting enough, much less doing it as a starter on a very young squad. Yet Kellyn Kolber has cultivated great composure by starting all over the field as a key plug-and-play piece for the Valley Regional softball team.

Kellyn has contributed to the team’s success as the ultimate utility player by playing third base, left field, center field, and shortstop while occasionally stopping by the circle as a pitcher when she is not too busy with all of those other field assignments. Offensively, Kellyn was Valley’s lead-off hitter with a .494 on-base percentage and was hitting for an average of .368 with five doubles and three triples this season to aid the Warriors to eight victories and berths to both the Shoreline Conference and Class M State Tournaments.

“A lot of my success has come from my coaching,” says Kellyn, who is also a setter for the Warriors’ volleyball team. “I have been taking pitching lessons for about the last three years. The lessons have been key for my development as a pitcher. I have also been seeing a hitting coach, too. I have become more comfortable and confident with my swing in each at-bat.”

Understandably anxious when she first stepped onto the field this spring as an infield starter after several seasons as an outfielder and hurler, Kellyn recalls that she triumphed over trepidation by the desire to do anything for the betterment of the club.

“I was very nervous at the start, especially starting as a freshman, and it was nerve-racking leading off and playing third base after always playing in the outfield or pitching in travel ball. But I knew if the team needed me to play somewhere, I would be there,” Kellyn says. “I am comfortable in the outfield or pitching, but when I play somewhere else, I have learned to play there through therapy for sports anxiety. I just visualize myself making good plays.”

Warriors’ softball skipper Olivia Whitehead notes that Kellyn holds an eye at the plate that players her senior covet. She adds that Kellyn has already shown flashes of flourishment in the field and in the dugout by being an influential player who can motivate others to take chances.

“When Kellyn gets up to the plate, she is in full control of her at bat. For a 14 year-old, her plate approach is comparable to a third or fourth-year player,” says Whitehead. “It is not easy taking on the responsibilities of a varsity starter as a freshman, especially in our extremely competitive Shoreline Conference. Kellyn has taken this challenge head on and shined this season. She has also contributed to the leadership of this team. She is always encouraging her teammates to push themselves out of their comfort zone, because she knows how great athletes they are. In recent weeks, she’s formed a great relationship and partnership with our centerfielder to cover more ground and get the ball in quicker. She is smart, strategic, and a natural born leader. Kellyn is a true utility player who can play any position in the field and will absolutely shine doing it.”

Kellyn craves the competition in the circle by being the person who can ultimately control the pace of play, though she also adds that while she feels pressure while toeing the rubber, she loves making resounding rifling throws in the outfield.

“I love pitching because I have been doing it since playing in minor pegasus. I get to be the leader on the field and touch the ball before anyone else. Yet pitching also requires the most amount of work,” says Kellyn, who also teaches pitching to youngsters at clinics. “I love center field, because it is not as demanding as pitching, but it is just as fun, especially when you are making big throws home and tracking balls down.”

Within the batter’s box, Kellyn has kept herself centered in more ways than one both mentally and physically. From the pitcher’s perspective, she has discovered additional scenario-based tosses.

“One big thing with my hitting has been staying in my legs and also keeping my weight back. It has been really transformative for my swing; I have been hitting the ball more consistently and further,” says Kellyn. “I have also learned how to pitch with different counts in an at-bat.”

As she moves forward following a fantastic freshman foray with Valley, Kellyn is aiming to balance the balls and the books when it comes to the circle, court, and classroom. Still, she maintains that this past spring has given her a tremendous and critical morale boost.

“My academics come first, and I value my academic career. I want to maintain my sports and my grades. I am probably the future of the pitching staff for the team, so I am excited to work on my pitching and also my setting for volleyball through a travel team. I am also looking forward to having my athletic and academic careers intertwine,” Kellyn says. “I am a lot more confident after this year. I was nervous at the start, but with the support of my team and teammates, I fit in really well. I am also ready for a leadership role going forward as a pitcher.”