BETHLEHEM, Pa. _ Like the majority of freshmen on college teams, West Morris High School graduate Kat Spilman simply hoped to blend in and contribute at Moravian.
Spilman, though, gained notoriety, earning Landmark Conference Rookie of the Year honors, a distinction that stunned the center fielder.
"It's awesome," Spilman said. "It's not something that I was expecting. I worked really, really hard so it's nice to be rewarded."
Spilman, Moravian's cleanup batter, hardly flew under the radar during her first season. When the Landmark Conference announced its award winners on Saturday, May 7, Spilman was batting .392 with 40 hits, 12 for extra bases, and 30 RBIs. She walked 12 times prior to gaining the honor.
The same day Spilman was named Landmark ROY, she slashed a two-run single down the right-field line to help the Greyhounds establish a 6-0 first-inning lead on the way to an 8-1 win over the University of Scranton in their conference tournament opener. The next day, Spilman singled and walked versus Susquehanna as Moravian (35-4) sealed its seventh tourney crown.
By coming out on top, the Greyhounds, ranked 19th, earned a berth in the NCAA Division III Regionals. They opened play against Worcester State University on Friday, May 13 at Ithaca and prevailed, 9-1. Spilman went 3 for 3, including a double, and had two RBIs. Moravian came from behind to defeat Mount St. Mary, 13-8, in a game in which Spilman had a two-run base hit but were shut out 8-0 by Ithaca.
The winner of the double-elimination regional advances to one of eight Super Regionals scheduled for May 20-21.
"The whole season has been so great," Spilman said. "It hasn't been one particular thing or one game. It's all been a high note."
According to Spilman, the Greyhounds are thriving because of their unity and support for one another.
"We just work so well together," Spilman said. "The relationships we've formed are very good. It's really tough to explain. We all have each other's backs. When we're batting, we're cheering the loudest. It's pretty amazing."
Spilman, the shortstop during her junior and senior years at West Morris, made the transition from high school to college softball with ease. Although she was welcomed by her teammates and coaches, she wondered how she'd fare on the field.
"It was intimidating at first," said Spilman, who has not yet declared a major but is leaning toward business. "You grow up playing softball with your friends. In college, it's a whole new group of people. College is much more serious. There's pressure on you, especially at Moravian, which has won so many championships. Softball and school are hard but it's doable."
The pitching differs from high school, she said.
"The pitchers have so much movement on the ball," Spilman said. "High school pitchers may go a little inside and have a pitch or two, maybe a changeup. The ones in college have many.
Moravian coach John Byrne praised Spilman in a press release announcing the Landmark Conference honorees.
"Kat has continued to improve as the season has gone along as she has adjusted to the college game," Byrne said. "She's shown some pop at the plate while leading us in home runs, and Kat has some nice range tracking down balls in the outfield."
Spilman entered regional play with a .405 average, 45 hits and 35 RBIs. Her slugging percentage is .649.
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