Lakeside High catcher Austen Urness has been the leader of a young softball team that features only four seniors.
LAKE ELSINORE On March 5, 2010, during her freshman year, Lakeside catcher Austen Urness clobbered the first pitch she ever saw for a home run against Redlands.
It was just the beginning of the Urness folklore that continued for four years.
Even though she was barely starting high school, Urness made a verbal commitment that year to the University of Nebraska. Major college programs had Urness on their radar when she was still in junior high.
Urness has more than justified Nebraska’s conviction in her abilities. The backstop earned countless accolades during the next four years, which included the 2011 Sunbelt League MVP award.
Accustomed to winning with a 57-20 record and two league titles in her first three seasons, Urness’ senior year has been a new experience as the Lancers have labored through a 4-12 campaign with younger players.
Nevertheless, Urness has taken the tribulations in stride, while leaving a legacy that will radiate among future Lakeside softball teams and their players.
“Austen works harder than any kid at anything I have ever seen,” Lakeside coach Todd Naylor said. “She was out here yesterday for an hour after practice, just hitting off a tee by herself, going and getting the balls. The other kids go, ‘What is she doing?’ She’s got one thing she is trying to fix or one thing she is focused on, and she’s not going to be stopped.”
Despite being pitched around constantly, Urness is hitting a blistering .634 with six home runs and a 1.927 OPS in 41 at-bats this season.
“She’s fun,” Naylor said. “She cracks everybody else. She is probably the heart and soul of Lakeside High School. She is just that special of a kid.”
Question: What made you feel so comfortable about verbally committing to the University of Nebraska at such a young age?
Answer: I took a lot of unofficials (visits) when I was younger. I didn’t want to make a commitment if I hadn’t seen other schools and if I felt a different way about a different school. When I immediately stepped off the plane (in Lincoln), I just felt something different. When I stepped on campus, it’s an atmosphere that is indescribable. When you step on there, you meet the coaches and you see the facilities. It left me speechless. That’s why I chose where I chose.
Q: Did you ever get a chance to attend a football game in Lincoln?
A: I did. I went on my official (visit). We were on the field for about the first part of the game and we went up to the stands. Football is what they’re known for out there. You can only imagine a sold out Nebraska game against rival Wisconsin. It was amazing. I couldn’t even hear myself talk to be honest. It was crazy.
Q: When did you start playing softball?
A: I started playing when I was seven. I started playing here in Lake Elsinore for L.E.G.S. softball up in Tuscany Hills and then I moved on and started travel ball when I was about 10 and I was on the Norco Phillies for a year. Then I have been on the Corona Angels ever since.
Q: When did you really start to fall in love with softball?
A: About when I first started travel ball, maybe 10, nine years old. This is something I can make a career out of, pay for my school and get an education. That’s something I figured out.
Q: How has it been different going from catching an experienced Division-I pitcher (Jasmine Smithson-Willett of Louisville) last year to catching a freshman (Cheyenne Alvarez) this year?
A: It was a change. It was really different, every situation you’re faced with, there is always something you can take from it. Losing Jasmine last year was a huge impact on this team. But having a freshman come up, she is starting every game. She will learn at a very young age and it’s been a lot of fun helping and teaching her and helping her a lot with her mental game. I’m kind of calling her pitches and telling her ‘it’s OK, you will be fine.’ Especially with how young she is, she is going to grow a lot and she is doing a really good job.
Q: You’re so used to competing here, how have you handled this rebuilding year as a senior?
A: Every situation has their challenges. What I really wanted to do is make sure this team just believes in themselves. I have had a lot of fun helping and leading this team, making sure they challenge themselves.
Q: Is it true an opposing pitcher tried to intentionally walk you the other day and you got a home run and a single off pitches out of the strike zone?
A: Yeah! It’s one of those things, I know they are going to intentionally walk me, so I get up on the line and if I can see a pitch that can handle, take it and see if I can do something with it.
Q: I heard the Elsinore team went out of their way to shake your hand after you got injured after hitting 4-for-4 with two home runs and five RBIs versus them during an 11-8 loss on March 19. What happened?
A: I’ve had a lot of really good moments at this school, that was by far the best. I got hurt like three or four times in the game. I waited until the end, right when the game was over, I went out to the side. I was waiting for ice, and I was waiting to get taken down (to the hospital) because everything hurt. I was sitting out in the back of the cart and I just heard a bunch of footsteps come over and the whole team after they were done shaking our (team’s) hands, came over and shook my hand on the back of a cart. It was really cool.
Q: What time do you usually wake up on workout day?
A: I usually wake up at 5 a.m. to get here around 5:15 to 5:30 so I can work out in the mornings. I have a college workout that I do in the mornings before school.
Q: It must tough to wake up when you hear your alarm ring?
A: It is a lot of time because I’m a teenager. You’re up late doing homework and then you gotta get up early to work out. It’s tough. If you manage your time very well, you kind of get used to it and the routine. I was doing it for three or four months and there was one week, we had Christmas break, the school wasn’t open so I took that week off. It felt weird. I got up at 5 am. on my own and I am just sitting here, what do I do? It’s just a routine after awhile.
Date of birth: November 8, 1994
Awards: Two-time all-CIF, three-time first-team all-Sunbelt League, two-time All-Valley selection, two-time Lakeside athlete of the year.
Last movie I watched: Pitch Perfect
What are you listening to? Country music
Favorite sports team: Angels
Twitter or Facebook? Twitter
Favorite subject: Math
Least favorite subject: English
Hobby outside of softball: Spending time with my family
Biggest fear: Throwing up. “I hold it in if I can. I haven’t thrown up since the fifth grade. It makes me shake talking about it.”
Favorite TV show: America’s Funniest Home Videos
Favorite color: Pink
Mountains or beach? Beach