SEATTLE - University of Washington senior slugger Baylee Klingler is one of 25 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.
"She's just a really good athlete. You know, she definitely is one of the best players we've ever had here. And we want to surround her with a national championship someday," Husky Softball Head Coach Heather Tarr said.
For the head coach of a team that contends for championships every year to refer to any player as "one of the best she's ever coached" is something special. The senior is already among the top 10 hitters in Husky history, and she's not done yet.
"I think it was just always just pure. I love the game so much," Klinger said. "I guess it's just the sense of failure and how it's so common and just constant strive to be better."
Klingler’s love for the game now finds her leading the Dawgs and leading the Pac-12 conference in home runs, RBI and slugging percentage this season. Statistically speaking, she’s toward the top of Division I hitters as well.
"I think ironically, sometimes in those crazy situations, I get more calm than whenever it's not in those crazy situations. But I think just getting to my breath and keeping things simple, not making the moment bigger than it needs to be and knowing that no matter what happens, like these girls have my back," Klingler said.
Husky coaches aren’t surprised, saying this has been a season in the making.
"She's been hungry. She's been hungry for information to not only help herself be the best softball player she can be, but she's also hungry, to be a great leader, to be a great Husky," Tarr said.
"She's just always doing something to get 1% better every single day. And you know that she is. She's done it forever. And you can trust in everything that she does and that's why she's such a good leader," Student Assistant Coach Sis Bates said.
Bates knows Klingler as a teammate as well. When she heard the Houston native might want to transfer from Texas A & M, Bates got to work. Bates adds, "I felt like I related to her a lot, because she's like, so competitive, but in a way that's like inviting to a team culture. So you don't want to play against her. But you want on your team."
Speaking of the team, Klingler says, "A lot of people ask if I ever get homesick. And it's like, no, because I have these like, ladies with me in this family."
That family culture breeds a sense of trust. Klingler says whether playing third base, shortstop, or wherever the team needs her, she’s ready.
"Just making sure we're in each other's back pocket. And we kind of expect what's going to happen and things like that. So yeah, I think just overall, the biggest thing has been, again, the family environment. That's that Coach Tarr’s created here," she said.
Part of what she’s created is a winning tradition. Something that’s not lost on the senior slugger.
"I don't think the biggest achievement would be to not lose any games. I think it's hopefully to win the last game played in Oklahoma City," Klingler says.
That run to the College World Series will start in about a month when the postseason begins. Despite being a senior, Klingler has one more year of eligibility, which she'll use next season.
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