Several Webster University students won national awards for athletic excellence over the summer.
Last year, then-senior infielder Karissa Cardenas showed her consistency and reliability at the plate by never striking out when at bat in 102 appearances. For her efforts she won the award for “Toughest to strikeout.”
Cardenas also contributed to the team by finishing top three on the team in sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies. Cardenas said she went into the season determined to remain disciplined when at the plate.
“My mindset was basically to do the best for my team and if that meant lifting myself up in any way for my team, then I knew I had to do it,” Cardenas said. “I also adjusted my mental game when I went up to the plate and tried to be a lot smarter about the pitches I swung at.”
In conference play in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC), her .259 batting average was second on the team. Cardenas credited her poise and enthusiasm for the game to a unique pregame ritual.
“Before every game, we play a game as a team where we hit the ball up with our gloves to every single player and we had to count the number of hits we got and we tried to get to 25,” Cardenas said. “It got us excited for the game. I’m a calm player so it got me to be more excited rather than playing calm.”
Cardenas battled a shoulder injury early on in the season which limited her playing time. She said her main motivation for working hard to get healthy was her desire to compete alongside her teammates and to finish her college career off strong. If that meant playing while still dealing with nagging injuries, she said she was willing to make that sacrifice.
“Definitely wanting to get back and play with my team was the main motivator,” Cardenas said. “I just had to play through some of those injuries because it was my senior season and it was my last shot so I didn’t want it to be wasted.”
Head coach Chris Eaton credited Cardenas’ work ethic and her ability to read pitches to her success.
“Karissa always worked hard in practice and one thing we always preach is battling when you’re at the plate and that’s something she did all the time,” Eaton said. “She was always good at not getting behind in the count, some girls go up there and look at two good strikes and then they’re swinging at whatever comes up there, but she always worked hard early in the count and if a good pitch was there she’d put a pretty good swing on it.”
Eaton said he was surprised at how much Cardenas was able to play.
“She hurt her shoulder early on so we didn’t know how much she would be able to play,” Eaton said. “That’s why we were lucky that she had such a good year just because of the injury, I did not think we would get to use her that much especially when she got hurt early on.”
Pitcher Morgan Mansur, said Cardenas was one of the players that helped her feel comfortable with the team when she first transferred to Webster.
“Last year I was coming in as a new teammate and Karissa was one of those teammates that just took you under her wing and kind of showed you the ropes about how things are done for Webster softball,” Mansur said. “She’s definitely a person that I respect a lot and I knew I could go to her for everything.”
Mansur said one of Cardenas’ greatest qualities is her relaxed and even-keeled personality.
“Her best quality is how calm she is, you rarely ever saw her get mad about a bad at bat or bad fielding,” Mansur said. “Everyone is going to make errors, but it’s the way that you react to the error that shows the type of person you really are.”
Cardenas said she enjoyed her college career, but is ready to move on to the next phase in her life. Next season, she will serve as a graduate assistant softball coach at Capital University.
Cardenas said she is confident that she can provide the proper guidance to the players at Capital because of her experience playing herself. She said the key to being a great softball player is being strong willed and that’s what she will stress to the players.
“I think being tough and being mentally tough is important because if you’re tough and hardworking there’s really nothing that can stop you,” Cardenas said. “I think that’s one thing that I can give is that the success I’ve had hasn’t been talent, it’s been grit and hard work so I think that’s the biggest thing I can bring to the table.”
Kyle Uhrich and Josh Fleming won awards this past summer for their pitching performances last season. Uhrich was recognized for his 90 strikeouts in 59 innings, winning him the “Strikeouts per nine innings” award. Fleming was acknowledged for his earned run average percentage, earning him the “Lowest earned run average” award.
Uhrich said his mindset was focused on doing whatever he could to try to strike out the batter in front of him. He said he had an array of different pitches in his arsenal that helped him fool batters.
“I didn’t rely on just one pitch to throw strikes,” Uhrich said. “I just tried to strike people out, whether it meant using my fastball or any other type of pitch.”
Uhrich also contributed to the team with his batting. He was first on the team in slugging percentage with a .525 percentage and he also led the team in home runs with six. Uhrich said his ability to be versatile helped fuel the team’s success and it also made him feel at ease knowing he could impact the game offensively and defensively.
“It was cool to be able to help on both sides, to be able to hit and throw some strikes,” Uhrich said. “It put less pressure on me knowing that I would be able to help both ways.”
Head coach Bill Kurich said Uhrich’s ability to impact the game in a variety of ways made him a dynamic force for the team.
“He’s a hard throwing kid, he has a good slider and he’s really just kind of tapping into his pitching ability,” Kurich said. “He was a heck of a hitter for us too, he led the nation in home runs his sophomore year so he was kind of a dual threat for us. He’s going to hopefully have an opportunity to play professionally next year and continue to grow.”