Look no further for the key to the Sauk Valley Community College softball team than the player they call “Ki.”
Kiara Kaleel, a sophomore pitcher from Amboy, is in the middle of just about everything the Skyhawks do, whether it be in the pitching circle or at the plate.
“She is just so key for us, and how we go,” SVCC coach Bob Lowe said.
Kaleel was a key cog in the Amboy softball team’s resurgence during her 4 years with the Clippers, but she has upped her pitching game since.
In order to get college hitters out, she had to be able to deliver more than a steady diet of fastballs.
She has since expanded her repertoire, with impressive results.
“She actually now knows how to throw a bunch of pitches,” Lowe said. “She’s always had a great curveball, especially when she comes inside on left-handers. We’ve worked a year-and-a-half on a dropball, and now she throws a dropball.
“She throws a change for a strike – she never had those pitches. Now she’s a complete pitcher.”
The key for Kaleel is to keep batters as off-balance as possible, and ideally, hit the ball to one of her infielders.
“I have to work more to get the ball on the ground,” Kaleel said. “I don’t want to be giving up fly balls to really good hitters.”
Kaleel has thrown 85 1/3 innings this season, nearly twice as many as the No. 2 pitcher on the staff, Brianna Shultz, who is at 46 1/3. Kaleel is 11-4 with a 1.06 earned run average, with 72 strikeouts against just 15 walks.
The strikeout total is within striking distance of the single-season record of 128 held by Taylor Byrd.
At the plate, the left-handed Kaleel is also a threat. She’s batting .339 (21-for-62) with five doubles, two triples and 10 RBIs.
Two years at Sauk Valley may mark the end of Kaleel’s softball career. She’s taking mainly business classes, but has no plans to go on to a 4-year college. Instead, she plans on being part of the family T-shirt printing business.
“I knew I didn’t want to go far away, and I knew Sauk had a good program,” Kaleel said. “It’s been a good fit for me.”
High school: Amboy, 2012
College: Sauk Valley
FYI: Starting pitcher for Skyhawks. ... Has an 11-4 record with 1.06 earned run average this season. ... Batting .339 with five doubles and two triples.