Feb. 7, 2011
By Jon Cooper
There isn’t a lot that the Georgia Tech Softball team can’t do.
That’s coming from rival ACC coaches, who named the Yellow Jackets unanimous favorites to take home a third straight ACC title.
Kate Kuzma plans to be there when Tech proves those coaches right. It’s a safe bet that somewhere on a schedule posted in the junior’s room the day May 15 is circled. That’s the day the ACC Tournament championship game will be played at Mewborn Field.
It’s not like she’s going to forget or anything, it’s just the way she likes to prepare for and approach things, very organized.
“My roommates make fun of me because I have all my schedules of my classes and what to do and what chapters you’re supposed to read,” said the Sharpsburg, Ga., native and Management major. “I rarely sit down and watch a TV show with them because I have Chapter 6 to read, I have to do a paper in two weeks, So I’m a very busy person. I like to do things. It’s very rarely when I can relax.
“I’m just super-determined,” she added. “I’m not one to bounce off walls, I just have a plan, I have checklists and I’m going to knock it out like that. When I’m at weights, and we have a list of the weight training we’re supposed to do that day, I’m not the type to take a break or go get some water. I’m like, ‘Okay, next drill. Let’s go.’ I’m determined. I want to get that done.”
Kuzma gets it done on the field in two radically different positions — catcher and left field, where she combined to play in 58 games, starting 57 times.
Her determination led to an All-ACC Second Team berth. She hit .245 but had a slugging percentage of .470, finished seventh in the ACC in runs and runs batted in (36 of each) and also laid down 21 sacrifice bunts (the team had 42, and her nearest teammate was Christy Jones, with six). Sacrificing was vital last season considering she batted in the two-slot, behind Jen Yee, who walked 88 times, many of them intentionally. In ACC play, Kuzma put down 11 of the team’s 16 sacrifices. She had a .621 average in advancing runners (second to Yee’s .829) and hit .339 with runners in scoring position, driving in 19 two-out runs, fifth on the team. Defensively, she posted a fielding percentage of .977, 1.000 in ACC play.
If the numbers and work ethic sounds impressive, consider that she accomplished what she did last season and will accomplish whatever she does this season with laxity in her right shoulder — imagine a rubber band that’s been stretched so far and is so loose that it can’t tighten — that can only be fixed with surgery.
“I’ve gotten several opinions and the majority say that if I want to carry my baby, if I have kids, that I should get it simply because I can’t carry any weight in [the right] arm,” she said. “Even when I do weights, I only do my left arm because it would either strain it because of the muscle or would irritate it from the bicep tendinitis.”
Oh, yeah, she’s battling through bicep tendinitis as well.
“Kate Kuzma has had her share of injuries, but you wouldn’t know it by her effort,” said Head Coach Sharon Perkins. “She is a huge part of this team’s success as she is a competitor and a team player. She is an excellent catcher and has become a strong outfielder. Last season she was the ultimate team player as she sacrificed bunted in numerous at-bats, but this year she will have a new role in the lineup.”
Whatever role Perkins finds for her will be accepted, become part of her daily regimen and eventually, if not mastered — a description Kuzma refuses to use — certainly played to at a high level, kind of like she’s done with catching.
“I don’t want to say I’ve mastered it because I’m a person who believes you’ve got to keep going, you’ve got to keep working,” she said. “But I definitely believe that I’m pretty close to catching. It’s my position. I’ve been playing it since I was 12. I’m definitely still working on catching every day, every chance I get.”
Kuzma’s never-ending pursuit of perfection also has made her a better outfielder.
“My focus this past semester was being the best outfielder possible. I have an opinion that if you only practice mediocre than you’re going to be mediocre,” she said. “So I saw who I thought was our best outfielder and that’s our center fielder Christy Jones and I said, ‘I want to beat her or be just like her.’ I know I’m not the best outfielder on the team but I’m going to practice to be the best.”
But striving to be the best and the team’s being best in the ACC for that third straight time won’t be about her ego.
“My main goal is to win it for the seniors,” she said. “That’s always been the case. When we won state (in high school), it was to win it for the seniors, not necessarily for myself. i didn’t want them to walk away feeling disappointed.
“I know that last year my shoulder was falling off and I had a hip flexor problem,” she added. “But when it come down to it, when you have those big games, that’s when you have to go out there breaking bones.”