Despite Kean’s hopes in the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament being dashed last weekend, there’s still consolation in having a star pitcher on the team roster.
In her freshman year, Courtney Yard has put everyone on notice that she’s a force to be reckoned with. For Yard’s stellar pitching efforts this season, posting a 18-win season and 146 strikeouts, the NJAC singled her out for “Rookie Of The Year’’ honors. It’s the first time in Kean softball history that a player has been so honored.
Yard led the NJAC in innings pitched, appearances and starts in conference action, while ranking second in strikeouts and wins. During the season, she was named “Rookie Pitcher Of The Week’’ in the NJAC six times.
Yard called the honor “exciting, knowing that my hard work had paid off’’ and credited her team with her success.
“When you win, you win as a team,’’ said Yard, a Stockton, N.J. native. “These are achievements we all make together. I loved being around a group of girls and putting it all together.’’
As a pre-teen youngster, Yard said she played sports but watching an older cousin and sister play softball drew her in. It brought out the natural competitive spirit within.
“I’m very competitive, which I get mostly from my dad I believe,’’ Yard said. “My family is competitive even when we’re playing a game of family basketball.’’
The softball team, which finished with a 24-19 record, endured through peaks and valleys during the season, according to Yard, adding that the experiences will prove invaluable in the future.
“We know as a team we should have made it further,’’ Yard said. “But we’re a young team (nine freshmen among 20 players) and it’s all about learning. We have a full year under our belt. There is a drive to work harder next year. We want to get that extra push.’’
As for her own individual performance, Yard said she thinks she has more to do in that regard as well.
“Skill wise, I can work on making my pitches move more,’’ she said. “And I think I need to get a better understanding of the skill set, the strengths and weaknesses, of the players behind me while I’m pitching.’’
Yard, a math and special education major, said she especially gives credit to Head Softball Coach Margie Acker for keeping the team’s spirits up.
“She understands where people are coming from,’’ Yard said. “All season, she has motivated us with the little things and encouraging us to keep going above and beyond what we thought we could do.’’