Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

June 6, 2014

GC Softball: Saucke, Curtis share 2014 Krista Armstrong Player of the Year Award

Corsicana — Hubbard had just come back with a dramatic doubleheader sweep over rival Bosqueville to win the best-of-three series and the Region II-1A title and earn the school's first trip to the state softball tournament.

Coach Mike Saucke couldn't have been prouder of all his kids.

“Kate was phenomenal,'' he said of his daughter. “Olivia was phenomenal.''

Yes they were.

Not only in the emotional doubleheader comeback, but the entire season. The Daily Sun agrees, and that's why Kate Saucke and Olivia Curtis were named the Krista Armstrong Co-Players of the Year for 2014.

Those two teammates head this year's All Golden Circle softball team (see page 16), a team that runs deep in talent and skill and spills over with heart.

It was a memorable and historical softball season for Hubbard, but other teams had tremendous seasons as well. Frost, which was led by sophomores Jae Moore and Hillaree Schwartz, had the best season in the school's history, and Moore was this year's Heather Holland Pitcher of the Year while Schwartz, who had a Pudge Rodriguez-like season behind the plate, was named the Co-Defensive Player of the Year along with Hubbard's incomparable catcher, Amy Anz.

Mildred fielded one of the top Class 2A teams in the state but ran into the most difficult playoff bracket imaginable, and Corsicana had a big year with two-time GC Offensive MVP Sidney Kirk leading the way.

There's a bit of irony now as Kate Saucke and Olivia Curtis share the MVP award. They have been playing together in Select Leagues — along with Anz — since they were 10 years old.

They ended their careers together in the state tournament.

Saucke hit .580 and drove in 44 runs during the regular season with a dozen doubles, six triples and a homer, and was as clutch as anyone in the playoffs.

She is arguably as good as any third baseman in Texas, regardless of classification, and makes the most difficult plays look easy.

“You just can't get it past her,'' said Dawson Coach Larry Prince, whose team faced Hubbard twice. “You can't bunt on her and no matter how hard you hit the ball, you just can't get it by her. She just makes great plays.''

Curtis wrote her own ending to a career that was derailed two years ago when she suffered a fractured back. She spent three months in a brace, wondering if she would ever pitch again. She came back last year to win the Heather Holland Pitcher award, and was even better as a senior, going 24-4 with a 1.33 ERA, pitching every game of the playoffs and finding a way to endure doubleheaders against some of the best teams in the state. She also hit .442 and drove in 20 runs hitting in the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

And in the state semifinal, Curtis re-injured her back and pitched in pain, and then rushed from Austin to Waco to see her doctor. She will get medication and rest and be 100 percent when she pitches for Mary Hardin Baylor, where she signed earlier this spring.

Saucke could have had a number of softball scholarships, including an Ivy League offer from Brown, but she decided to end her competitive softball career and attend Texas A&M, where she will major in bio-medical engineering. A&M had to reduce it's scholarships from 25 to 21 when it joined the SEC, and that cut left Saucke just short of a career on the A&M diamond.

She had to decide between softball and the Aggies.

“It was really a hard decision,'' said Saucke, who has a 4.2 GPA and graduated No. 1 in her class. “I was on the fence a real long time, from last June until school started. When I found out last June that I wasn't going to play at A&M, I started thinking about it, and thought about it all the time.

 “I just love A&M. My mother went there. My sister Hannah went there. It's always been my dream to go there,'' she said. “My softball career was going to end at some point, so I decided to go to A&M and make this year my last in softball.''

She ended in style with a season she will never forget, winning postseason honors as the District 11-1A Co-MVP and becoming one of only four Class A players to be selected to the Texas Girls Coaches Association's All-Star Game.

''I worked harder than ever before,'' she said. “I knew this was my last season and I felt I had to put everything into it. I worked hard before, but this year was different. When we went to state, it was the best feeling ever. It was my senior year and we made it to to state!''

Anz, who will be Saucke's roommate at A&M said it surprised everyone when Kate decided this was her last year in softball.

“I don't know anyone who loves softball more than Kate,'' she said. “She loves to be on the softball field. And she's so talented and so smart. She is always one step ahead of everyone in the game. We played a team and the coach wanted to steal third so he faked a bunt to get Kate to come up the line, but Kate knew what he was doing and stayed back. She does stuff like that all the time.

“I couldn't believe it when she decided not to play softball any more. I guess it's because A&M is her dream school, and that surpassed her love for softball.''

Saucke has another dream. Her uncle, Louis Saucke, suffers from muscular dystrophy and Kate has always dreamed of helping him.

“I want to be a bio-medical engineer and invent and produce a device to help people with muscular dystrophy to walk,'' she said. “I have been dreaming about that since I was a freshman in high school.''

Saucke's bond with Curtis, Anz and the rest of the team helped her become a natural leader on the field for a team that grew incredibly close on the run to state.

Curtis was a leader as well, on and off the diamond, and had one gutsy, gritty performance on the mound after another on the road to state. She left the mound exhausted after doubleheaders in the playoffs with almost nothing left to get her home.

“It's all out there,'' she would say, pointing to the mound. I left it all on the field.''

Her last two years have been like that. Her back injury all but ended her career, and she has a singular appreciation for all that she has and all that is in front of her. She never took anything for granted, and did everything she could think of to become the best.

“The thing about Olivia is that she just works so hard,'' Anz said. “Just about every day after practice, she'll say, “Are you doing anything after practice?' And we will stay after and she'll pitch. A lot of days her dad comes up after practice and he catches her.

“I know a teacher at school who lives by Olivia, and she told me she saw Olivia pitching in her front yard after 9:30 at night,'' Anz said.

Sometimes Curtis pitches past 10 or 10:30.

“We have these two big trees and they have lights,'' she said. “And there's a net (backstop) between the trees, and my dad will catch me at night. I do it because I just want to work on my craft. I want to be the best. Sometimes it's 10:30 or so.''

And somehow Curtis always found time for homework and to study. She graduated No. 7 in her class with a 3.9 GPA.

Both Saucke and Curtis finished careers together on an unforgettable ride to the state tournament, as the first team from Hubbard to reach the Final Four in Austin.

But what both young ladies talked about even more than the ride to state is how special this season was.

“It was special for me, because I knew it was my last,'' Saucke said. “I'll never forget it.''

Curtis said she cherished every moment because she almost lost softball two years ago when she sat out in the back brace, worrying if she would ever pitch again.

“When I came back last year it was iffy. But this year I came into the season feeling confident (about my back) and that feeling was the best,'' she said. “This season was so special. It was our last one together and we went to state, but for me I just appreciated everything even more than I can say. Two years ago I never thought I would play again, and to come back and have a year like this …

“Just getting it taken away from you and then getting it back,'' she said, stopping and starting again. “To get it back ...  I wouldn't change the road to get where I am now at all. It just makes me appreciate it all the more. Words can't describe it.''

 

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