Years of experience together on the softball diamond had Big Spring High School Class of 2020 seniors Kailee Shotto, Madyson Wert and Carly White envisioning an unforgettable final season.
What they got was something that they never could have imagined, as their senior season went by the wayside due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But throughout all the wins, losses and their lost senior season, their love of the game and love for each other remained strong.
“We’ve always been really close friends. It’s always been just us three. We’re all very different, but we strived this year to help create a good team aspect and to help everyone stay positive,” Kailee said.
Kailee, the Lady Bulldogs’ first baseman, described the senior trio as “very hard working,” saying, “Carly was kind of like the peaceful voice, the rose in between the two thorns. We had our ups and downs together, but we relied on each other for self growth and positivity. Bringing each other up and encouraging each other to do better than what we did the previous year, and honestly, I would not have been the same without either of them.”
Kailee and Carly, a pitcher, began playing softball at the age of 5, and both came up through the ranks together at Big Spring. Madyson, a catcher/infielder, originally played baseball, but switched over to softball after changing school districts. It was Carly, her longtime Lady Bulldog teammate, that asked her to join.
“I just really loved the sport. It was a nice little break from everything else that stressed me out. It was nice to go out and just play ball,” Carly noted. “I have really, really great teammates and I was really looking forward to our season this year in particular. We had a lot of potential and a lot of great people, which I think means more than necessarily just having great players. They are people you want to be around and people you want to get better with and alongside.”
All three of them went through their share of ups and downs at the high school level, but their leadership skills, coupled with a lot of young talent, had the senior class anticipating going out on a high note.
What they got was a prime example that you cannot take anything for granted.
“Not having my senior season makes me wish that I would have appreciated the three years of high school softball that I did have,” Kailee said. “I wish I would have had more fun with it. Sometimes I took softball way too seriously. At the end of the day, it’s a game.”
“I was really hoping to have my senior season, knowing that this was going to be it for me, because I didn’t choose to play travel softball this summer,” Madyson recalled. “It kind of taught me that life isn’t fair and things aren’t always going to go how you want it to. Every game didn’t go the way that we wanted to, but we were still along for the ride.”
Even after the pandemic hit, the seniors tried to keep their teammates encouraged even as the hope for a season dwindled.
“We did a lot,” Kailee said. “I don’t think our main focus was worrying about ourselves as seniors. We were more worried about our girls. Our season didn’t get canceled until the end of May, so we were making sure we were doing team bonding events and workouts online. We also did a team get-together shortly after our season was canceled just to make sure everyone was still on the same page. Even though we were still at home and weren’t really seeing one another, we still had the excitement that we left with when we were on the field for the last time.”
“It was definitely hard losing so much and something that we had worked toward for a long time,” Carly added. “We all kept in touch and were making sure that everyone was still playing the sport, because there are only three seniors, and we want the rest of them to come back next year to play. We wanted to keep the spirit alive and make sure that everyone still wanted to play softball.”
Their experience on the field was no different, as they received their share of lessons over their first three seasons.
“I’ve learned a lot,” said Carly. “Softball has taught me the importance of relationships with people and the importance of working as a team. That’s something that is important in sports, but also in life. Learning how to work together and be a better person, a better teammate and feed off of everyone’s best abilities.”
“There weren’t a lot of highs my first three years,” Kailee admitted. “I played a lot as a freshman on varsity and had a lot of errors. Something I learned going through a lot of losses my first three years was at the end of the day, you win or lose as a team.”
She continued, “Unlike some other sports, you have to rely on one another. Whether you’re a pitcher or a catcher, you are constantly relying on somebody to make the play. Offensively, you rely on your teammates to hit the ball and get some runs on the board. It’s just a lot of reliance on one another, and if you don’t trust your team, you aren’t going to have a good team overall.”
“Anything can change at any point,” Madyson added. “You could be down in a game 9-0, but you can come back to win 17-8. There is no set anything in life, you just have to be flexible and go with it.”
For Kailee, not having her senior season just made her appreciate the sport even more, to the point where she is looking at the possibility of playing in college.
She plans on attending Penn State Harrisburg in the fall to major in food science. Once she completes her general education credits, she will transfer to Penn State Main Campus.
“The goal is to contact the [Penn State Harrisburg] coach as soon as I get up there to see if they have tryouts,” Kailee said.
Carly plans on attending James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, to study psychology with a minor in Spanish. Her ultimate goal is to be an elementary school guidance counselor or a child psychologist.
Madyson will attend HACC for her general education credits before transferring to Penn State Harrisburg, where she plans to get a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
She hasn’t closed the door on softball completely, saying she might try out for the Penn State Harrisburg softball team down the road.
“Up until this year, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Madyson said. “I branched out and took some of the tech classes and I loved it. It was one of the most fun and interesting things I’ve ever learned, and I think it would be something I’d like to do with my future.”