It doesn’t matter if Tera Geimer is at batting practice and she’s taking swing after swing. Or if she’s facing a full count with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning. Geimer, a junior on North Thurston High School’s softball team, is in heaven, her getaway place.
Geimer’s cure to a bad day is heading to softball practice or to a game. “If I have a bad day at school I can just come out here and I forget all about it,” Geimer said. “This is my escape.”
Like Geimer, Kyler Freeze, a sophomore and the Rams’ top pitcher, feels like softball is her getaway place. Sure there’s pressure to perform, to throw the strike with a full count with the bases loaded, but that’s not her focus.
“It’s just play ball and get it done,” Freeze said. “I really enjoy it, so I don’t think of it as a task or anything. I think it’s fun. I enjoy it.”
Last year as only a freshman, Freeze pitched, playing a role often reserved for upper classmen. But Freeze didn’t buckle under the pressure and ended up making honorable mention all-league. She’s pitched since she was six-years-old, and so she’s no stranger to the challenges and pressures of pitching. Her secret for performing under pressure is putting team first.
“You just have to put the team before yourself,” Freeze said. “What can I do to help my team out? You have to push through it and work.”
When Freeze isn’t pitching and throwing strikes, she plays either shortstop or first base. Of course, Rams coach Pete Feliciano wants to make sure Freeze also gets her plate appearance. With her batting around .600 for the season, you could say Freeze has the swing of it.
Besides learning how to hit an inside fastball or scoop a hot grounder, Freeze has learned something about life by playing softball.
“I really learned to overcome things and to work hard,” Freeze said. “It carries over to the classroom. You play a game and then you have to go home and do homework. Even if you think you don’t really want to. But you need to so you can continue to play softball. It carries over in everything.”
It’s all about learning how to push yourself.
When Haley Julkunen was just five-years-old, she started playing softball and now she’s the Rams starting center fielder. But there’s another sport she’s learned to embrace. It’s horseback riding. She loves competing in barrel races. And horses, not softball, will be in her long term future. When she plays her last softball game for the Rams and graduates from high school, Julkunen will attend Lamar Community College in Colorado. She’s going to major in horse training and management.
“I’m going to college there for horse training,” Julkunen said. “I’m excited about it.”
As a second-team, all-league last pick year as a junior, Julkunen knows she’s in a leadership role. Her teammates look to her for leadership.
“I’ve got to be there and help them when they need it,” she said. “I love being in that role where I can help people out.”
For Geimer, playing softball since she was in first grade hasn’t taught her just how to swing a bat and throw a ball. “It taught me teamwork definitely,” Geimer said. “And how to get along with other girls and being coachable. That’s one of the huge things.”
And softball has also taught her something about controlling her attitude. That’s something that’s going to help her the rest of her life.
“If you have a bad attitude you will get benched,” Geimer said. “That’s going to help me so much in the real world.”
Softball taught her that. Her times as a pitcher have also taught her something about the need for confidence you can get the job done.
“What I’ve learned is when I’m on the mound, my coach told me, that your conversations you have with yourself are the most important ones,” Geimer said. “So, if you tell yourself you’re going to do good and you’re going to be one of the best, then your actions will show that.”
It’s a lesson that will follow the North Thurston High School softball team the rest of their lives.