How Washburn softball almost missed out on elite local pitcher

How Washburn softball almost missed out on elite local pitcher

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Washburn softball is thankful for second chances.

The Ichabods are enjoying the production, or the lack of offensive production from opposing teams, that sophomore pitcher Sadie Walker provides. Walker has a 0.88 ERA on the 2024 season and has thrown five complete game shutouts.

Washburn almost let her pass by.

“Sadie came to lots of our camps and really wanted to come to Washburn,” Washburn head softball coach Brenda Holaday said. “The last camp she came to I told her I didn’t think she was quite ready for Washburn and maybe needed to think about starting at a [junior college.]”

Walker took the advice from the Ichabod staff, which she had grown to trust over the years, and made plans to start her college career playing at a lower level. Then…

“Her senior year at Holton just really took off,” Holaday said. “We talked about some things she needed to work on.”

Holaday and her assistant chose to give the Holton, Kansas native another look. They drove to Salina for the 4A state tournament to see Walker play once more. They were impressed, and Walker saw them in the crowd.

“The next week we had camp and she shows up, even though she had committed to a JUCO,” Holaday said. “I said, ‘What are you doing here?’ and she said, ‘What were you doing in Salina?’ From there, we got a commitment that day and the rest is kind of history.”

Holaday and Walker had built a relationship which allowed the raw and honest feedback, before her senior year, to be received without offending the Holton Wildcats’ standout. That’s why she never held the original rejection against WU when the staff came back around.

“We were, from the beginning through our camps, I love the kid and I really believed that she was going to be a [good] pitcher,” Holaday said. “You’re always trying to find kids, at our level- especially pitching, that can be fairly ready when they come in.”

The long-time Ichabod coach says Washburn knew it needed a No. 2 pitcher, to backup All-American Jaycee Ginter, right away and hence was hesitant to put that workload on young and developing prospect.

“She’s handled it pretty well,” Holaday said with a smile.

Make no mistake, while the staff was once uncertain of her ability to immediately step in and shutdown MIAA batters, it knew her potential was high from the start.

“The kid’s ability to grow as a player is immeasurable,” Holaday said. “You don’t know that when you recruit. You don’t know when a kid is going to reach their ceiling.”

If you can believe it, Coach Holaday believes 17 wins, two no-hitters, a perfect game and 118 strikeouts… all with 10 regular season games remaining… could be just the start.

“Her knowledge of the game, that knowledge of pitching, is really strong,” Holaday said. “Her mechanics are excellent. I think she will continue to get better because I think we’ll be able to add velocity to her which makes everything even better. Smart pitcher, becoming really tough minded on the mound.”

Holaday can laugh about it now, since Walker still ended up in an Ichabod uniform.

“We almost lost the opportunity to grab her right away because I wasn’t very smart at that time, I guess,” she said. “We’re really happy to have her in our program.”

Walker was named MIAA Pitcher of the Week on Monday, her second time earning the honor this season. The ‘Bods are 30-10 and take the field next at Nebraska-Kearney for a double header on Thursday, April 4.

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