It was hard to realize it at the time, but Kelsey Waters would be among the luckier high school athletes in March of 2020. The Central Hardin softball player lost her junior season of course, but unlike her teammates that were just a year ahead of her, Waters and her fellow juniors would get another chance to step onto the field with their high school teams a year later.
So far, Waters and her Lady Bruin teammates have been taking advantage of this return to play, jumping out to an 8-1 record as of Friday while outscoring opponents 98-18 in this span.
Winning in this fashion after going a little under two years without a regular-season game isn’t a bad way to kick things off. At the same time, Waters is just glad to be playing for Central Hardin again.
“It feels amazing. I’m so glad I can be back with my teammates and I’m so glad we can be together in the same field and play teams that we used to play,” she said. “I’m just grateful, especially since last year we didn’t get any of that.”
Waters has played an important role in helping the Lady Bruins drive in this many runs early on with a team-high 20 RBIs. Her most in a single game as of Friday is five, which she did April 1 in a 12-2 win over North Hardin.
“It makes me feel amazing that I even can do that myself,” she said of her RBI prowess. “I’m just so excited that I can help everyone along on our journey.”
Additionally, Waters also is leading the team in hits so far with 14 and has a team-high three home runs. She’s also been among the team’s leading run scorers, having crossed the plate 13 times since the start of Central Hardin’s season.
“I’m very excited that I can help my team achieve their goals,” she said. “I would just like to keep playing my best and encourage our teammates to do the same.”
Waters may have lost her 2020 high school season, but she still was able to get some time on the field last year through travel ball to help keep her prepared.
As important as staying in shape for the season is, Waters views this as half the battle. The other half revolves around keeping her mind ready for competition as well.
“I feel like softball’s a lot physically but also it’s hard mentally,” she said. “What has helped me the most is not just getting reps in, but staying calm up at the plate and focusing more than I usually did before. Mentally, it’s helped me a lot.”
Mental and physical preparation aside, Waters has simply been driven to make up for a lost season. A season her senior teammates from last year will never get back.
The chance to play the game they love is something Waters and her current teammates have not taken for granted.
“We’re very motivated to get the show on the road, to get excited and play as many teams as we can, because we want to get that experience that we missed,” she said. “I appreciate everything, all of the opportunities I’ve gotten so far, especially since I experienced how hard it was last year.”
The 2020 senior class is never too far from the minds of this year’s Lady Bruin team as they finally get the chance to see what they can do after a run to the state tournament semifinals in 2019.
The world has changed a lot since then, but Waters and her teammates’ confidence in each other hasn’t.
“I think our goals are to be as good as we can, both mentally and physically,” she said. “Overall, the goal is to be a great team. Teamwork is the most important thing for us and as long as we stay together and work hard together, I think we will achieve amazing things.”