DeKALB – Jeff Davis has a luxury few softball coaches around the state benefit from.
When Davis’ DeKalb Barbs take the field, he’s able to rely on not one but two aces.
There’s senior right-hander Katie Kowalski, the 2011 Daily Chronicle Player of the Year who is finally healthy after spending the past two seasons dealing with thoracic outlet syndrome. Davis also has sophomore left-hander Morgan Newport, who had a 1.14 ERA as a freshman and struck out 118 batters in 981/3 innings.
With those two in the circle for a team that loses just two starters off last year’s squad that made a Class 4 sectional final, expectations are high in DeKalb.
“It’s tremendous for our program. Having those two pitchers, and I’ve made this totally public, they’ve got the potential – and I know that’s a dangerous word, but they both could be all-staters this year,” Davis said. “If we hit and we give them three runs per game, we’re going to win a lot of games 3-2.”
When it comes to using the two pitchers, Davis plans on going with whoever’s got the hot hand, and both have the potential to carry the team.
Should one of them have a rough outing, Davis will always have a great plan B.
“It’s really a lot less stress on my arm, knowing that me and Katie can work together to win games for each other,” Newport said.
As a freshman in 2011, Kowalski finished with a 2.63 ERA and struck out 208 batters in 160 innings, earning all-state honors.
During her sophomore year, Kowalski dealt with a sore shoulder, and during that summer with her travel team, her hand began to swell.
She was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that cut off blood flow from her arm, causing her hand to swell and her shoulder to become sore. She had surgery in December 2012, but during the spring of 2013 she still wasn’t 100 percent.
Now, Kowalski, who’s committed to play at Division I Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne, is healthy, and she also has added a changeup to her arsenal.
“Last spring, even after my surgery I was still having a lot of pain, swelling. Still having a lot of arm problems, that was just really hard to deal with,” Kowalski said. “Physically, it was really hard because my hand was always swollen, my arm was always hurting. But mentally, it was really hard because it just affected the way I was playing, affected what was going on.”
Newport, in her second varsity season, is throwing harder and Davis said she has great movement on her pitches. When she’s not pitching, Newport will patrol the outfield.
“I’ve just really been working in the offseason on getting stronger as a pitcher, mentally and physically,” Newport said. “I’m hoping that I can use that in my game to be more effective.”