Knoxville grad Lauren Kavanagh picks next stop in collegiate softball career
It's time for Lauren Kavanagh to move on.
After three seasons hitting softball diamonds for Parkland College, she's transferring, as the institution is a two-year community college.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019 Knoxville High School grad was able to experience an extra season repping the Cobras, and Kavanagh is thankful for that. She'll miss playing for Parkland, an NJCAA Division II school, located in Champaign.
“It’s definitely not going to be the same. I feel like Parkland was home for the last three years," Kavanagh said. "It’s going to be a difficult change but I am excited.”
Kavanagh's next stop will be a bit further east and south from her last, as she's verbally committed to play for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, an NAIA school located in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, which is about an hour and a half from Parkland and roughly three and a half hours from Kavanagh's hometown.
“I liked that it was closer to home, and they seemed like a good program and a good fit for me when I did my visit," Kavanagh said of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Fort Lauderdale University, located in Lauderhill, Florida and an National Christian College Athletic Association affiliated school, Waldorf University, an NAIA school in Forest City, Iowa, and Kentucky Christian University, an NAIA school in Grayson, Kentucky, were also possible stops for Kavanagh, an accounting major.
As a high school senior, Kavanagh, a lefty, was named to the Illinois Coaches Association’s Class 2A All-State third team, as a pitcher. However, she won't step inside the chalked circle for the Pomeroys, as Kavanagh is trying to avoid wear-and-tear. She plans to only man first base for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Kavanagh missed a portion of the 2021 season — the beginning of March through mid-April — due to a posterior cruciate ligament tear in her right knee but the injury didn't require surgery. Kavanagh rehabbed hard to get back into the lineup for the Cobras but she didn't pitch afterwards. This spring, Kavanagh threw 3 2/3 innings.
Rise balls caused fits in 2022
Parkland went 3-8 in 2020 in a pandemic shortened season, and Kavanagh appeared in all 11 games. She had a .250 batting average with a home run, six RBIs, and a pair of runs. Kavanagh's batting average jumped in 2021, and she ended up with a .404 average in 28 games.
In the 2022 season, Kavanagh had a .243 batting average, and she admittedly struggled at the dish. Rise balls were hard for the 21-year-old to see for one reason or another, and they hadn't been in the past.
"This year, I just mentally got into my head and didn’t have total confidence at the plate so it affected me at the plate," Kavanagh said. "I'm working more on the mental aspect of the game. Softball is more mental than it is a physical game.
"You’re going to fail more than you’re going to succeed, and you’ve got to be able to handle failure," Kavanagh added. "This summer, I'm working on seeing the ball — just getting reps and having someone throw spins to me so I can see the spin coming in. Two years ago, I think I was having a better year hitting. I just struggled seeing the ball really but I’ve been working hard in the offseason.”
Kavanagh learned while at Parkland
Kavanagh, who played basketball, softball and volleyball for the Blue Bullets, knew she wanted a chance to compete in national tournaments, and Kavanagh did while playing for Parkland. In 2021, the Cobras qualified for nationals for the ninth time in Parkland's history.
And what did Kavanagh learn from the experience of playing under the spotlight?
“To never give up," she said. "I learned determination, relentless and how much the offseason means and to trust in your teammates and to have good chemistry.
"Your teammates are the people that go through the exact same thing you do on a daily basis," Kavanagh added. "Those are the people you can vent to and push through all the hard times with, and they become family."
Matthew Wheaton can be reached at (309) 315-6073 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @matthewlwheaton