Friday, April 12, 2024

Central Montcalm’s Kaitlyn Minikey to continue softball career at Rose-Hulman

Central Montcalm senior Kaitlyn Minikey, from row second from right, is surrounded by her teammates and coaches after signing her letter of intent to play college softball at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. — Submitted photo | Laurie Shaffer

STANTON — Kaitlyn Minikey will get an opportunity to play college softball, but first she’ll have one more season to leave a legacy for the Central Montcalm softball team. 

The four-year varsity player is excited to make the most out of her senior season after missing most of last year due to a knee injury. As the final chapter of her high school softball career begins, she is looking forward to taking her athletic and academic talents to the next level at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

The Hornets are looking to have four seniors on their varsity squad this spring. Being one of those four, Minikey looks forward to leading the underclassmen both on and off the field.

“I think the most important thing that I’ve learned about leading in the past few years is that leading by example is the most important thing,” Minikey said. “I also think that working with them and including them in everything is really important. I know our senior class this year has been working really hard to include especially the sophomores that are going to be playing up on varsity this year in all the stuff that we’ve been doing in the offseason.”

Being a team leader and making everyone feel included is something that Minikey takes great pride in. Former teammates Delaney Schafer, Kam Nicholson and Emily Throop are who inspired her to be the leader she is today.

“They were seniors my sophomore year and they led the team really well,” Minikey said. “I’ve been trying really hard to kind of emulate this group of seniors because they had the biggest impact on my softball career.”

Minikey joined the varsity team her freshman year, surrounded by a handful of seniors. Since then, she’s received an assortment of awards, including All District and All Region honors her junior season. Head coach Bruce Nicholson has seen great improvement in her game over the past three years.

“She’s worked so hard on her game,” Nicholson said. “Her freshman year, she was young and we were very senior dominated, but she absorbed a lot. She’s brought that with her and she keeps passing that down. She’s put in a lot of time and has really mastered her craft. She’s really improved. She was really good as a freshman too but those four years really made a big difference physically and mentally.”

Recently, Minikey committed to continue her academic and athletic careers at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. Rose-Hulman is an NCAA Division III school that competes in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Children attending Saturday’s Ash Cultural Event in Greenville, featuring children’s artist Laurie Berkner, jump up and down as they interact with the musician as she performs her concert at the Greenville Public Schools Performing Arts Center at Greenville High School. — DN Photo | Cory Smith

Most athletes commit to colleges based on their athletic programs. For Minikey, their engineering program was her top priority. Being able to play softball was an added bonus. 

“The thing that drew me to Rose initially was it’s the number one undergraduate engineering school in the country, and it has been for 25 years,” Minikey said. “Their engineering is phenomenal and I fell in love with the school first. When I found out that they had a softball team, that just made me fall in love with it even more.”

“Kaitlyn is an extremely intelligent kid,” Nicholson said. “She’s been so goal-oriented and her goal was that school. If she got to play, that was going to be a bonus. It’s kind of a perfect fit for her. She’s going to get to go to an engineering school and play softball with it. That just doesn’t happen a lot.”

Looking back on her four years with the Hornets’ softball program, Minikey feels as though she’s ready for the next level, thanks to her coach and his assistance with her mental game. 

“My coach, Bruce, has been the biggest influence in that decision to play and the ability for me to play,” Minikey said. “He’s focused so much on individually preparing every single player on the team in working with their strengths. For me, especially, he worked on the mental game because I have a very technical mind and I’m good at processing things. He worked with me on the physics of softball and how all of this different stuff correlated to science and math. He kind of led me towards using all of that to make myself a better player and that really prepared me for college I feel like.”

Although she’ll miss her teammates and her coaches, Minikey hopes that they keep improving their mental game to be the best players they can be.

“I hope that they can keep working on increasing their mental game,” Minikey said. “One thing that we stress a lot in this program is you can control two things, your attitude and your effort. The other team can be better and more talented than you, but they can never outwork you and can never outsmart you. I think it’s the most important thing to keep that mentality going because that’s what’s led us to the most success.”

The Hornets have had a good roster of catchers over the past couple of seasons. Based on the example she sets for the rest of the team, Nicholson believes Minikey will leave a remarkable legacy after she graduates. 

“It’s her optimism and her excitement and her commitment to this program,” Nicholson said. “She demonstrates to younger girls how much you can improve and how much hard work matters. That’s what people will look back on and say ‘yeah, Kaitlyn was all of that.’ She’s going to be a huge loss, but we’re excited about her senior year and we’re going to really enjoy this.”

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