By John Burbridge firstname.lastname@example.org
DECORAH — There have been many pitching coaches who have told many of the “Nuke” LaLooshes of the world that everyone at the major league level can hit a fastball.
And the replies are sometimes, “Yeah, but can they hit my fastball?”
Usually, they can if you don’t mix in change of locations and speeds as well as a bender or two.
Not too many batters were able to hit Sami Heyer’s fastball during last summer when she dished out the heat for the Charles City softball team. In her first full high school season, the then sophomore emerged as one of the state leaders in strikeouts, ringing up 282 Ks in less than 186 innings pitched while compiling a 23-7 record and holding hitters to a Bob Uecker-like .166 batting average.
After helping the Comets place fourth in the Class 4A bracket at the State Softball Championships, Heyer was named to the Iowa Girls Coaches Association All-State Softball third team.
Going into this season, nearly half of the Charles City’s projected starting lineup has signed on to play softball in college. Heyer, a junior this season, has made a verbal commitment to play NCAA Division 1 softball for Northern Iowa.
“I made the decision in January,” Heyer said during a break in the action during last week’s state track and field qualifier at Decorah High School — for the second-straight year, Heyer qualified with the Comets’ 4-by-800 relay team.
Obviously, moving up to the D1 level is going to be challenging for Heyer and many other incoming freshmen who were high school standouts. But Heyer in part has prepared herself for the transition when she decided to play for the Southeast Iowa All-Stars last fall.
“I’ve played travel softball before, but it was with a local Charles City team,” Heyer said. “This team didn’t hold tryouts. They came to you … recruited you.”
Many of Heyer’s Southeast Iowa All-Star teammates were … all-stars — or all-staters like Heyer. One is Independence junior Mackenzie Hupke, who shared starting pitching duties with Heyer.
“She’s going to Drake and I’m going to UNI, so we’re going to be opponents in college,” said Heyer, who also mentioned they’re going to be opponents this high school season as the Comets are due to host the Mustangs on May 25.
“It was nice to be her teammate this fall,” Heyer said.
Heyer considered her time with the All-Stars as an “eye-opening” experience.
“It definitely pulled me out of my comfort zone,” Heyer said. “The hitters are tougher … plays happen much faster. It’s a lot different from high school.”
Right after this weekend’s state track meet, the Comets will start the softball season with an away game at Osage on May 21. Their first home game at Sportsmen’s Park will be the following Tuesday (May 22) against North Butler.