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Coming back stronger

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

There was a point where softball just needed to take a back seat to life. Buffalo State softball player Kaitlyn Schnitzer learned that first hand when she was admitted to the ICU because of a reaction to her Covid shot.

Four surgeries, and one missing rib later, Schnitzer came back a stronger person both physically and mentally.

“I had a life changing experience in reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, which resulted in me spending a week in the ICU and needing four surgeries, one of which was to remove my first rib,” stated Schnitzer. “I was out of practice for about two months while I recovered and completed rehab.”

Her softball journey was never in doubt. Schnitzer knew she would come back just as strong as before the hospital stay. What position she would play for the Bengals would be a different answer.

Schnitzer came to Buffalo State as a third baseman. She hadn’t been on the mound in a couple of years. But, the coaching staff saw something in her, and believed in her enough, that they were making her a starting pitcher again.

“Walking onto the team as a third baseman who hadn’t pitched in two years, it was very exciting to have such a great season,” stated Schnitzer. “Then in January of 2023, I began pitching for the first time in years. Thanks to Coach Brown and the support of my teammates, I was able to get back into pitching. It took a lot of work to get my strength and stamina up to be able to pitch a complete game, but to be able to make it to the SUNYAC Championship game was such a major accomplishment for myself, and my team. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Endurance was the big thing right out of the gate for Schnitzer. Pitchers are expected to go the entire game, help save the bullpen when they can. In the beginning Schnitzer had to work back up to going the full game.

It took time, but eventually she was able to step on the mound and take care of business like she knew she would.

“It definitely requires endurance to pitch a full game, and it was something I had to work up to. Endurance pitching workouts were a must, and they ultimately helped me keep my composure and focus when I got tired,” stated Schnitzer. “Resting is very important ,especially after a tough or long game day. It is crucial for recovery, and to be ready to go for the next game day.”

It’s also tough getting back into that mentality of just letting what happened on the mound slide off your back. She was used to being at the hot corner, making plays in the field. Now, she is back on the mound controlling the game.

If she had a bad inning, or start, Schnitzer had to erase it from her memory Some would say pitching is a lot more mental than physical. A pitcher knows she she needs to do on the mound to get the batter out. It’s shaking off the mistakes that will get the person on the mound to the next level.

“If something bad happens during a game, I use it to motivate myself to overcome. I allow myself to comprehend what went wrong so I can make adjustments, but after that, I let it go and focus on the next play,” stated Schnitzer. “Everyone always says softball is a game of failure, and that’s true, but I think it’s all about how you come back from failures. You can’t let it control your mind and affect how you play. Personally, I love the adrenaline rush and feeling the pressure to perform. It creates excitement in me knowing that I can do my job and help the team come home with a win.”

When she isn’t on the mound Schnitzer is in the batters box raking for a Bengals softball team that has high expectations. When she is on deck, Schnitzer is trying to read the pitcher. She is trying to figure out what she might throw her, depending on the situation.

She also feels she may have a slight advantage because she is a pitcher. But, once she gets in the box everything is just blocked out. Now, it’s time to do her job.

“I love getting the opportunity to hit. When I’m in the dugout and on deck, I talk to teammates about their at bat and focus on reading the pitcher, trying to get a feel for what she’s throwing,” stated Schnitzer. “I get my timing down and tell myself what my job is going to be when I get in the box. Once I’m in there, everything else gets blocked out and I remain calm and focused in the moment.”

At some point her softball journey will come to an end. No more getting up for the early morning workouts. No more icing down after games. But, Schnitzer wouldn’t have traded it for the world. All those travel games, going to different places, it’s what has made her into the person she is today.

“Softball has made me into the person I am today. I started playing when I was 5-years old, and I quickly grew to love the sport. My coaches over the years have all motivated me to strive for more and push myself to be better as a player and as a person,” stated Schnitzer. “My family has also played a major role in my softball journey by supporting me from the very beginning. Softball has taught me about teamwork and building trust, working hard, and never giving up regardless of how difficult something may seem, which applies to life outside of softball too. I have formed inseparable friendships with amazing people who make me the best version of myself.”

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