Springstead’s Kolwicz inks with Lake-Sumter State College Hawks

NEXT HAWK – Springstead senior Emily Kolwicz recently signed a softball letter of intent to attend Lake-Sumter State College. Emily is flanked by her father Mike, and mother Lisa. Her brother Andrew stands behind her.

SOFTBALL

Four-time All-County

pick broke Pfent’s school

marks for games, at-bats

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

One of the major cogs in F.W. Springstead’s recent success traces back to its infield play.

That’s where Emily Nicole Kolwicz – a four-year starter – left an indelible mark.

Emily Kolwicz

The 5-foot-9, 135-pounder, who was selected All-Hernando County four times for her infield play, recently graduated from the Mariner Boulevard campus after breaking a pair of Lady Eagle records previously established by Paige Pfent for most career games played (114-111) and most career at-bats (382-355).

Kolwicz recently inked with the Lake-Sumter State College Hawks.

She’s the first Springstead player to ink an athletic softball scholarship to Lake-Sumter since All-County selectees Diana Eckert and Emily Eicholtz each signed following the 2003 season.

Kolwicz 101

Emily was born in Spring Hill as the oldest of two children to Mike and Lisa Kolwicz.

Mike played football and graduated from Springstead in 1990. He serves as the IT manager of a local roofing company.

Ironically, Lisa, also graduated from Springstead in 1990. She’s employed at Walgreen’s Pharmacy.

The brown-tressed and hazel-eyed Kolwicz wasn’t raised on the dusty sandlots.

Her initial organized sport was recreational soccer at 3 years old as a defender at Spring Hill’s Anderson Snow Sports Complex.

At 5 years old, Kolwicz opted to join Spring Hill Dixie Softball at Anderson Snow. She played both sports there until fifth grade.

Once she matriculated to Challenger K-9, she branched out into several sports.

Challenger K-8 Navigators

She initially gravitated to girls basketball, where she played junior varsity ball as a sixth-grader.

She played varsity hoops as a seventh- and eighth-grader.

Emily played on the softball team for three seasons, initially starting in the outfield before anchoring shortstop her last two seasons.

Along the track oval, Kolwicz excelled.

She participated on the Navigators track squad concentrating in the 100 and 200 meters and 4×100 relay for three seasons.

In a stellar eighth-grade campaign during the season-ending Hernando County Middle School Athletic Conference Championship Meet, she garnered a gold medal in 100 meters and 4×100 relay and finished runner-up in the 200 meters.

Once she enrolled at F.W. Springstead, Kolwicz concentrated exclusively on softball under veteran skipper Craig Swartout.

Outside of the diamond, Kolwicz also stood out in the classroom. She maintained a 3.9 unweighted and 4.3 weighted grade point average.

Her favorite courses included English II and English III and pre-calculus.

Springstead High’s Emily Kolwicz hangs on to second base after a successful steal in the Class 6A, Region II Quarterfinal against North Marion.Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Though she was always quick, her favorite sport has always been softball.

“I’ve played since I was 5,” pointed out Kolwicz. “I’ve always liked being part of a team. I’ve met a lot of new people due to softball. I feel like I’ve become sisters on the field with my teammates.”

On which facet of the game she relishes the most, “Oh, I’ve always liked playing defense,“ she shared. “I love fielding the ball and throwing somebody out. I’ve always found it exciting to put the glove on.”

Kolwicz doesn’t shy from the fact that she’s gotten mentally tougher.

“In big games, it’s easy to second-guess yourself if you make a mistake unless you’re mentally tough,” she explained.

“Just getting the extra reps in has helped me. I stay longer in practice to get extra grounders. That extra grounder could be the difference in the next game. I’m fortunate, because I feel like I’ve learned from my mistakes. As a ballplayer, you have to ready for the next pitch and next situation.”

In the infield, she alternated between third base and shortstop.

“At third, you either get a lot of shots, or you have gets the bunts,” stressed Kolwicz. “When I play shortstop, I feel like I have a lot more range to make plays. From that position you have to cover a lot of ground. They key is getting to the ball quickly.”

Springstead High’s Emily Kolwicz.                                                    Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Offensive production teeters

The right-handed hitting Kolwicz debuted as a freshman hitting .317.

Not known as a power hitter with only four extra-base safeties, she collected a personal high 15 runs batted in.

As a sophomore she dipped to .273 at the plate before steadily rising to .292 as a junior, departing with a career-best .410 average as a senior.

As the Lady Eagles’ leadoff batter, she understood her job.

“As a leadoff batter, my job was to make something happen,” emphasized Kolwicz. “I had to find ways just to get on base. I knew that if I got on, I’d be coming home. I realized for us to win, I had to get on base.

“I’ll admit, I was very comfortable batting leadoff. I knew with the girls we had coming up behind me, I just had to make something happen to start it off.”

On why her batting average soared as a senior?

“I changed my hands. They were a lot closer to me. I felt like I was turning on the ball too much,” noted Kolwicz. “People have asked me if I’ve ever consider being a slapper. I tried it a little bit in travel ball. I’m more comfortable hitting from the right side.”

Describing her experience at SHS, “It was so special,” she said. “When I walked in as a freshman, there was no animosity toward freshmen playing ahead of others. We all became sisters on the field. It didn’t matter what grade level you were in.

“I felt fortunate to play here as a freshman. I was the only freshman on the team. Even though everyone was older nobody treated me differently. Everyone was encouraging toward me.”

Springstead High’s Emily Kolwicz tagged out at the plate by Crystal River catcher Caliann Rogers. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Highlight reel

Kolwicz broke in with an immediate impact on the program.

During the 13th game of what turned out to be longest winning streak in Hernando County public school history in 2016 – 23 tilts – Kolwicz made the difference.

She says she’ll never forget her only homer in 382 career at-bats.

In a back-and-forth tilt against archrival Nature Coast Technical, the Lady Eagles trailed 9-7 in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Facing the bottom third of the SHS lineup, two Eagles got on base before the lineup card flipped.

Down 0-1 in the count against NCT right-hander Alyssa Gonzalez, Kolwicz swatted an inside offering over the leftfield fence for a dramatic three-run walk-off homer to topple NCT, 10-9.

Emily Kolwicz,

As Kolwicz circled the bases, she recalls hearing nothing but her breathing and footsteps before rounding third base and catching the pandemonium in the stands.

“I remember that game and that swing like it was yesterday,” beamed Kolwicz. “The game was back-and-forth. It was a great game. I remember we had the bottom of the lineup up and they got on. I was just trying to make something happen.

“…The pitch was inside and I turned on it. I ran hard until it cleared the fence. At that point, things got crazy in the stands. Fortunately, a parent video taped that at-bat, so I have a copy. It’s a lot of fun to rewind that particular moment.”

Kolwicz doesn’t beat her chest for eclipsing two of Pfent’s records.

“They’re special moments too,” insisted Kolwicz. “I wouldn’t have gotten them without the support of my teammates. They’re the ones that helped turn the lineup over.

“…Really the credit belongs to the entire team. The more we won, the more opportunities were given to myself and my teammates to continue playing ball.”

Springstead’s Emily Kolwicz throws to first. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Kolwicz, who takes a great deal of pride in converting 304 of 333 defensive chances, recalled two other key defensive moments.

“As a sophomore against Dunnellon, they had the bases loaded. A ball was chopped high over my head and I remember gloving it but it carried my momentum backward.

“Fortunately, I stepped on third base and threw off-balance to Paige (Pfent) who tagged the runner going from third to home out for a huge double play.

“… Then I remember the TV game against Belleview here as a sophomore. I jumped up and caught a foul ball in four territory. I didn’t know I had it until I found the ball in my glove,” she grinned.

Summing up her four-year career in Spring Hill, “I wouldn’t have traded it for the world,” noted Kolwicz. “I owe my coaches, Swartout and Ortiz, a lot. I’m not sure things would have turned out like they did without either of them.

“They both let me know when I did something wrong, but they also let me know when I did stuff right.“

On what Kolwicz will miss the most, “I’m gonna miss the feeling of getting ready for a big high school game. As a team we tried hanging out and having lunch together.”

Kama Woodall Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
Kayla Cruz

Kolwicz will never negate the impact that Kama Woodall and Kayla Cruz had on her development.

“I always looked up to Kama. She was so mentally strong. Even if I messed up, she’d come over to me and encourage me to keep my head up. She always called me magnet hands.

“… As far as Kayla, we played travel ball and school ball together. I was so happy when she decided to transfer from Weeki Wachee,” shared Kolwicz. “We had this thing between us. She’d give me this power hitting gesture for good luck and I’d give her this speed gesture for her to score. That was fun.”

Next phase

Kolwicz elected to attend Lake-Sumter State College over attending Tallahassee Community College and Central Florida State College in Ocala.

“I decided to go to Lake-Sumter and Coach Miller because they were s family-oriented,” explained Kolwicz. “The first day I walked on to campus just seemed like the right fit.

Kolwicz is studying to become an accountant.

She says, “It’s because I’ve always liked math.”

According to Kolwicz, the Hawks plan on utilizing her primarily as a shortstop and perhaps as a slapper in the lineup.

“I wouldn’t mind playing shortstop or even the outfield,” explained Kolwicz. “If it makes me a better player, who cares where I play.”

Traveling 75 minutes from home to school also seemed suitable.

“The campus isn’t too far from home,” pointed out Kolwicz.

In the interim, she‘ll continue to play travel play for Ron Katz’s Pinellas County Warriors.

As important as softball is, Kolwicz also stresses her academics.

“My academics are really important,” she said. “I love playing softball. But I know I need to have a career path afterward. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do after two years at Lake-Sumter, but Coach Miller has promised to help find a school.”

Emily Kolwicz

On prepping for college ball, “I have to continue working on everything,” stressed Kolwicz. “When I get there, there will be girls ahead of me. I’m gonna miss my family, but I’m looking forward to doing things on my own.”

The biggest obstacle standing in Kolwicz’s path of success, “It’s getting used to living on my own. I love to eat.“

Before heading toward Leesburg and next chapter of her life, she‘s earning some spending cash working at Dairy Queen.

On her legacy, “I’d like to be remembered as someone who never gave up,” emphasized Kolwicz. “Someone who believed in herself and in her teammates.

“… Making All-County four times was awesome, but it has a lot more to do with your teammate’s success.”

 By the Numbers:

Springstead’s Emily Kolwicz (2016-19)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

HITTING

Springstead High’s Emily Kolwicz watches a high pitch.                      Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YR.

 

GP

 

AB

 

R

 

H

 

2B

 

3B

 

HR

 

RBI

 

.AVG

2016

29

104

35

33

3

0

1

15

.317

2017

30

99

27

27

3

0

0

12

.273

2018

29

96

22

28

6

0

0

11

.292

2019

26

83

33

34

3

2

0

8

.410

 

TOT

 

114*

 

382*

 

117

 

122

 

15

 

2

 

1

 

46

 

.319

* Denotes school record.

DEFENSE

Springtead High’s Emily Kolwicz throws across the diamond to erase a Belleview runner. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YEAR

 

TC

 

PO

 

A

 

ER

 

.PCT

 

DP

2016

93

25

59

9

.903

0

2017

90

25

56

9

.900

2

2018

85

23

54

8

.906

0

2019

65

20

42

3

.954

2

 

TOTALS

 

333

 

93

 

211

 

29

 

.913

 

4