Livermore High graduate Katie Keller once showed boys a thing or two about baseball.
Today, the 5-foot-2 dynamo is one of the country's best collegiate softball players. Keller, a junior second baseman at Louisville, has led the powerful Cardinals (44-8, 17-2 Big East) in offense all season, and carried a .428 average with 10 home runs, 54 runs scored and 47 RBIs into last week's series against Georgetown.
She was recently selected as one of 25 finalists for USA Softball Player of the Year. The winner will be selected at the beginning of the College World Series in Oklahoma City (May 30-June 5).
Growing up in Livermore, Keller played travel baseball until she was 13 years old and won a Super Series Championship in 2004. She played third base and earned two pitching wins and a save in the nine-game series.
"Not intimidated by boys on the field," her dad Bill Keller says. "A lot of the boys she played with are now college players."
But Katie still sees room for improvement. Last season she made second-team all-Big East after making the first team as a freshman. She re-dedicated herself last summer.
"Over the summer I really worked hard on my fitness," Katie said. "I worked a lot on my hitting, as well, which really helped me. My first two years, I was just average, and I wanted to get a little better this year."
Katie, a four-time all-East Bay Athletic League first-team softball selection, burst onto the scene at Louisville as a freshman, tying the school record with a 16-game hitting streak. This year she twice tied the school mark with seven RBI in a game, and became the program's first-ever national player of the week.
Her dad says Katie received excellent coaching in club softball with the California Grapettes and Concord Sorcerers. But her determination comes from within.
"Katie as a young girl was extremely competitive with her brother, David," her dad says. "We would play horse in the driveway when she was 10 and could not quit until she had won a game. We would play home-run derby in the back yard and would have to let her win so we could go inside."
Louisville, tied for No. 7 in last week's ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate poll, has been on a season-long tear, highlighted by a doubleheader split with No. 1 Oklahoma.
"The doubleheader split was a really big accomplishment for our team because it basically just gave us a big energy boost and a boost in confidence," Katie said. "It helped us know that we can beat a highly ranked team. That will help us get to the next level, like the Super Regionals and College World Series."
Katie stays in touch with her former club and high school teammates, such as Saint Mary's College players Katelyn Mamizuka (Monte Vista) and Brittany Sabatini (Livermore). Keller and Sabatini helped the 2009 Cowboys beat Freedom 2-0 in the 2009 North Coast Section Division I championship game.
Katie agrees that she benefitted from facing top-flight softball competition in high school.
"It's very competitive in the East Bay League," Keller said. "The people you play against all have very good teams. I played on a real good travel-ball team, and it basically helped me be more motivated when I came all the way to Kentucky to keep on playing and keep on going to school."
MCGLASTON SIGNS: Dublin basketball star JoJo McGlaston, a spectacular athlete who led the Gaels to their first league title in 40 years, was recently honored at Dublin for signing with Utah State.
The 6-foot-4 McGlaston was the Diablo Foothill Athletic League Player of the Year after scoring 22.0 points a game The Gaels advanced to the Northern California Division II championship game before falling to College Park 93-90 in overtime. McGlaston scored 35 points, a NorCal Division II finals record, to go along with 14 rebounds.
"JoJo is a tremendous athlete who can score in a variety of ways, Utah State coach Stew Morrill told ksu.com. "He has the talent to become a very good Mountain West Conference performer on both ends of the court. We are excited about adding a wing player with JoJo's potential."
McGlaston's brother Jason played at St. Joseph Notre Dame and his sister Erika played at Berkeley. Dublin guard Jamir Andrews, who made 70 3-pointers last season and averaged 18 points a game, is weighing his college options and has been talking to University of San Diego and UC Santa Barbara.