MANKATO — There's no doubt that Katie Homan's relentless work ethic and dedication to becoming a more polished pitcher has translated into a higher level of success for the Mankato Loyola softball team.
Coming off a season where Homan was named the Crusaders' Most Valuable Player, the senior right-hander looks to be a steady influence as a younger Loyola squad opens the season by hosting Cleveland today.
"Katie Homan really stepped up her game last year," first-year coach Kari Koester said. "She spent the previous winter working on her game and coming into the season you could see she was more confident and had a better command of her pitches.
"She really thrived on being the go-to-pitcher, and coming into this year she's done the same exact things. To have a pitcher with two years of experience and now a growth in maturity and a greater selection of pitches is nice."
Homan, who was also an all-conference, all-city and honorable mention all-state selection, appeared in 15 games last season, recording a 10-1 record with a 2.22 ERA while striking out 70 and walking 28 in 85 innings.
"I feel I've developed into a more mature player who knows more about the game," Homan said. "My awareness of what's going on is better. It's crazy how much you can learn. I try to bring my leadership to the team so the younger players have someone to look up to.
"It's also nice to know that if you're having an off day, we have other pitchers that can come in so the pressure is not all on you. It's nice to be able to rotate pitchers so other girls can get playing time and we can continue to build the program."
Homan is one of four seniors returning off last year's 18-4 team, which finished behind New Ulm Cathedral in the Section 2A tournament. Third baseman Aunikah Bastian, an all-conference, all-section and all-city performer, batted a team-best .471 with 20 RBIs and 29 runs scored. Infielder/pitcher Jordyn Strachan (.368, 14 RBIs, 11 runs) and center fielder Jordyn Theuninck (.270, 8 RBIs, 13 runs) complete the senior quartet.