Stepping up to the plate: Senior’s last year sparks leadership, responsibility

A full count is on the board, and senior Rachel Ullmann sets up for the pitch. Digging her foot in the dirt and bending down low to begin wind up, the batter begins to pull back her bat. The ball leaves Rachel’s fingers as the batter misses and gets struck out, the Vikings take home another win.

Being the only senior starter on the varsity softball team can be tough, but pitcher Rachel Ullmann is the type of person who leads and sets an example for younger players.

“[Rachel’s] leadership this year has been outstanding,” softball coach Enrique Luna said. “She is constantly bringing the team together and pushing them to be the best that they can be. Being the only senior [starter] on the field can be tough, but she has handled it like a true champion and the younger players follow her lead.”

Rachel’s teammates agree that she has stepped up to her new role and fills it well since the loss of so many upperclassmen last year.

“We all call [Rachel] the team mom,” senior Mary Kate Walker said. “She keeps us on task a lot and always encourages us and tells us what we can do to get better. She’s really stepped up this year to the role she needed to take as the senior pitcher.”

With the loss of the upperclassmen, the team got smaller but more united. They all came together to work as a team and strive to win their next game.

“We’ve gotten so much closer together as a family and a team,” Rachel said. “We know that we have to work together. Every practice and every game we grow together.”

A team needs participating members to help pull the weight. With a softball team, everyone needs to contribute their skills and athletic ability in order to win a game.

“To win a game we all have to work together, it’s not just one individual that has control of the game, everyone has to contribute,” Rachel said. “We have the potential to go really far as long as we work together and we know our strengths, weaknesses, and what to improve on.”

Building off of other’s skills, the pitcher frequently controls the pace of the game which puts pressure on Rachel.

“She has done everything we had hoped for this year,” Luna said. “She has developed herself as a force on the mound. We could not be doing as well as we have if it had not been for her hard work and dedication.”

Despite the time commitment that softball demands, Rachel’s ability to succeed on the mound has not stopped her from succeeding in class.

“The most important thing is [Rachel’s] dedication to what she decides to do,” English teacher Lisa Prejean said. “Her dedication in the classroom relates to her actions on the field because she has to have that same dedication to practice. In class, she has to have the drive to do well. I think the most important thing is that she shows dedication to both her  academics and her sport.”

Because of her hard work, dedication, and skill, Rachel is an example to her fellow peers in class and on the field.

“[Rachel’s] leadership is by example,” Prejean said. “In the classroom, she’s not extremely vocal, but she leads by showing up to class on time and having her work done. She’s focused on school and understands that school comes first and softball comes second. Knowing that her priorities are in the right order helps her on the field because then she doesn’t worry about her classes, she knows they’re all covered so then she can a be a leader on the field. On the field, she does the same thing, she leads by example. The other girls see how she behaves and what she does and then they want to emulate that in their own lives.”