Wayne State sophomore Sara Scheffert said relaxing with her teammates is a big part of her pregame routine. The reason: She can’t pitch uptight.
The Lincoln Southeast graduate overcame an anxious start to 2013 to be voted by area coaches as the honorary captain of The World-Herald’s All-Nebraska Division II softball team.
Scheffert began 4-3 — she called it a horrible start — but excelled to a 17-7 finish with a 2.31 ERA.
“As a freshman, she had nothing to lose,” Wildcat coach Krista Wood said. “She came out this year putting a lot of pressure on herself.”
Luckily for Wayne State, the confidence — and wins — eventually came this season.
“Her confidence and presence got to the point where you could tell when she went out that she was ready to rock ’n’ roll,” Wood said. “We know offensively, with Sara in, that we can have a chance to win by just scoring a few easy runs.”
Scheffert finished with 14 complete games, including seven shutouts. She threw more than 148 innings, allowing less than a hit an inning with 96 strikeouts.
Scheffert’s second year in the program followed a freshman campaign in which she went 13-10 with a 2.45 ERA. Still, her coach saw improvements this season.
Wood said that Scheffert’s velocity is now north of 60 mph, and she has gotten better at hitting her spots. Control was a strong element of her game this past season, as she threw just nine wild pitches and hit nine batters.
Another way that Scheffert staved off the sophomore slump is with the development of her change-up.
“Last year, I wasn’t as comfortable throwing that pitch,” she said. “Now I’m out there and I want that change-up.”
A day when Scheffert was particularly dominant was April 25 against then-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference leader and eventual Division II super regional qualifier Winona State. She threw back-to-back shutouts in Wayne State’s 2-0 and 11-0 victories. The Warriors faced Scheffert all 12 innings, and she allowed three hits in each game while striking out seven overall.
“I wanted those games against Winona so bad,” she said. “It meant a lot to beat a team like that.”
With the season over, the outlook shifts to what Scheffert can accomplish with two years to go in her college career.
“She is going to keep growing ... and knowing how to work batters is going to make her that much better,” Wood said.
As for the athlete, Scheffert wants to help the team achieve postseason goals next year. She is doing that with an increased workload in the offseason.
“I’ve never worked as hard in the offseason as I am right now,” she said. “We want to keeping building.”