Kirsten Stevens didn’t know much about Mercer University before July, but she learned quickly.
The Prairie Ridge senior was pitching for the Illinois Chill, her travel team, in Colorado at an exposure tournament when Mercer coach James DeFeo saw her play. DeFeo contacted Stevens to let her know he was interested.
Stevens visited the Macon, Ga., school with her parents, Bob and Judi, in August. Shortly after that, DeFeo coached in a Max Preps softball showcase in Elgin and managed to get Stevens on his team.
“I thought he was very encouraging, supportive and funny, but also had a sharp eye for detail and a way about coaching that made me very confident,” Stevens said.
Last week, the Wolves’ left-hander committed to attend the NCAA Division I school on a softball scholarship. Stevens plans to sign her NCAA national letter of intent next month.
“When we visited, I talked to the department heads for Spanish and international relations,” Stevens said. “It seemed like a great fit for me for academics and for softball.”
Stevens has been a varsity starter since her freshman season when she shared time in the pitcher’s circle with Johanna Turner. She was 21-9-1 last season with a 1.29 ERA and 319 strikeouts. She hit .326 with four home runs and 18 RBIs.
For her career, Stevens is 50-15-1 with a 0.96 ERA and 675 strikeouts.
“Her potential is unlimited,” Prairie Ridge coach Mike Buck said. “She has so much God-given natural ability. She’s a tall [5-foot-9] left-hander who throws very hard. I’m just glad she wears maroon and silver in the spring again.”
Stevens started her softball career at age 8 in the Cary recreational league. She got more serious about pitching when she was 11, even when some coaches had told her she might be better as a position player.
“I wanted to become a powerful pitcher and prove them wrong,” Stevens said. “I’ve worked hard in the summer, pitching about every day, played a lot of travel ball and work with weights and on conditioning in the offseason.”
Stevens was invited to play with the Chill in a tournament late in the summer of 2011, then stayed with the team this summer. Buck says Stevens’ attitude is as good as her ability.
“She’s always at practice with a smile on her face,” Buck said. “She’s easy-going and likes to joke around, but when she’s in the circle, it’s all serious.”
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.