Freshmen lead storm

The team is struggling, but there is hope.

The St. John’s softball team has lost 13 of their last 15 contests and currently stand with a 2-12 conference record. But amidst the team’s difficulties, it’s been two freshmen who have given fans hope – if not for this season, then certainly for ones to come.

In their first season together in Queens, Kacee Cox and pitcher Kat Lawrence have already become game-impacting players for the Red Storm.

Their names can be found at the top of plenty of hitting and pitching statistical columns – homeruns, RBIs, slugging percentage, innings pitched, wins, starts and strikeouts, to name a few – and both have become vital contributors this year and sure staples in lineup cards of the future.

Over the season, Cox has been asked to play a number of positions for the Storm including catcher, third base and designated player.

While displaying her versatility in the field, Cox has emerged as the team’s offensive spark.

Her 71 total bases, 28 RBIs, 25 runs scored, 7 homeruns, 12 doubles and .563 slugging percentage lead the team. Her 38 hits and .302 batting average are good for second.

Her journey to the team began two years ago in the recruiting hotbed of California. Cox is one of 11 Red Storm players from that state, but the only one to call Simi Valley home.

Head coach Amy Kvilhaug spotted the power hitter while scouting one of her teammates.

“Her parents got to know me and liked what our program was about, so we got her,” Kvilhaug said.

Cox finished her career at Royal High School in very rewarding fashion. She was a three-year letter winner and two-time offensive player of the year.

By the time she was five, she had already made the decision to focus her athletic ability on softball. When the time came for a college choice, it was the distance from home that drew her cross country to St. John’s.

Only miles away from Cox, in Rohnert Park, Calif., the Johnnies found the pitching sensation they needed. Lawrence, a two-time Sonoma County league MVP while in California, was recruited to fill the void at the pitcher position for the Red Storm.

“Kat’s summer league coach invited me to see her in a tournament in Huntington Beach, California,” Kvilhaug said.

“I saw her pitch and said, ‘Oh my God, this girl has good stuff. I want her.'” The thrill of Big East competition, along with some New York family members, reeled Lawrence in.

Lawrence leads the team with 115 strikeouts in 125.2 innings pitched. She also boasts a team-best six wins.

Her coach describes her as a quiet, focused leader that is able to function at a very high level.”Kat doesn’t act like a freshman,” Kvilhaug said.

“She wants the ball for all the big games.” In fact, Kat struck out nine in a complete game victory against Big East foe Seton Hall on March 22.

“Kat trusts us as a team, which helps,” Cox said about her teammate. “If things go wrong, Kat stays calm and focused. Her mental state never changes.”

“I want to set records,” she said about herself. “Any record would be nice.” Cox has been a Big East honor roll recipient twice already.

“Kacee is a talented ballplayer,” Kvilhaug said. “She is learning, and experience will only make her better. She is fun, outgoing and has really matured a lot from day one.”

Both California natives have the opportunity to train year round because of the pleasant weather of their home state, and both take advantage of the sunshine.

“I pitch three times a week all year. I lift and I swim all summer,” Lawrence said.

“I go to batting cages and practice with my friends who also play softball,” Cox said. “My uncle is a personal trainer so we work out with him also.”

With over half the season completed, the impact of these two freshmen has been obvious.

For her second year as head coach of the Red Storm, Kvilhaug managed to discover freshmen that are not only talented, but also eager to win. Lawrence says her career goal is to make it to the NCAA national championship. Both say they want to win a Big East conference championship.

“It’s all about adjustments,” Kvilhaug said. “These two have struggled, but they learned quickly. They are really just tapping the surface with their talent.”