In the game of softball, the pitcher’s game can be the deciding factor in how the game turns out, which is why the University of South Dakota’s women’s softball team feeds off the success of first-year pitcher Rachel Cue, senior third baseman Lindsey Boyd said.
In the Coyotes’ most recent games at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne March 28, Cue beat reigning Summit League Pitcher of the Week Miranda Kramer to help the Coyotes win the first game 5-2 against the first-place IPFW.
Cue, who is 10-7 on the season, struck out nine, walked one and allowed eight hits.
“I did well in that game,” Cue said. “I gave up two home runs, but my team backed me up and helped me get the win.”
Cue started playing softball at the age of 12. She played every position before learning how to pitch at the age of 13.
“I saw one of my teammates pitch, and I thought it looked fun and I wanted to try it,” she said. “I was really bad at first. The first game I ever pitched, I hit every single girl.”
Growing up in Garden Grove, Calif., Cue pitched against some of the best high school players, head coach Amy Klyse said.
“Southern California is the strongest softball area of the country,” Klyse said. “When I went out there to watch her play, I knew she was competing against some of the top kids in the country and she was constantly striking them out. The game I saw, I think she struck out 15.”
Cue said she’d always dreamed of playing college softball and had offers from Marist College and Hawaii Pacific in addition to USD.
“I was interested in the program here, and I came out and visited and I loved the girls and the atmosphere,” Cue said. “I visited Marist the same weekend, but the team here made me feel at home. I’ve never once felt homesick since I’ve been here, and it’s because of my team.”
As a first-year, Cue said there was some adjusting to the play on the NCAA Division I level.
“It’s a lot harder than high school,” she said. “There are a lot of better hitters, so I had to become a better batter. I’ve worked hard. Klyse has helped me a lot.”
Cue was initially pretty shy, but as the year as wore on, she’s opened up, Klyse said.
“We’ve realized that shyness is actually a super intense feistiness,” Klyse said. “In turn, we’ve realized she’s such a good pitcher because she is so feisty.”
Cue said her fellow pitchers, first-year Kayla Fields and sophomore Madison Frain, help each other become better pitchers.
“We push each other to get better,” Cue said. “Every practice, we’re working hard and trying to show Klyse that we’re ready to start.”
Boyd said she’s enjoyed watching Cue grow as a player this season.
“Her mental and physical growth has been outstanding,” Boyd said. “Sometimes I forget she’s even a (first-year). We definitely hold her to a higher standard because her play is so outstanding.”
Having a solid pitcher like Cue makes it easier on the rest of the team, Boyd said.
“Even with runners on base, I’m never worried when she’s pitching,” Boyd said. “I know she’ll get the job done.”
Klyse said Cue’s strength is that she’s at her best when she’s needed.
“The stronger the opponent, the stronger she is,” Klyse said. “She likes to get ahead and only allow hits that she knows her defense can take care of. Every team that makes it deep in post-season competition has an ace, and it’s fun to watch her step into that role. We have to have an ace to win, and she’s taken up that role well.”