CHARLES CITY — Injuries have knocked down Samantha Heyer twice in her young athletic career, but each time she’s gotten back up stronger.
The Northern Iowa softball recruit and standout junior pitcher for the third-ranked Charles City softball team suffered ACL injuries in both her eighth-grade and ninth-grade years.
Instead of dwelling on the negative, Heyer concentrated on bigger goals.
“Sure they both set me back,” Heyer said. “But they also motivated me to work harder and figure out what I needed to do to excel. I’ve been taking lessons three times a week, going to open gyms on Sunday ... just working four days a week the past two or three years trying to make up for the time I missed.”
A standout on the volleyball court and softball field, Heyer’s pitching helped lead Charles City to a fourth-place finish in Class 4A at last year’s state tournament. This season, the Comets (25-2) are poised for even bigger things.
In 19 starts, Heyer owns a 17-1 record with a 0.54 earned-run average. In 103 2/3 innings, she has allowed just 34 hits, walked 20 and struck out 177 batters. Last Friday, Heyer out-dueled close friend and Southeast Iowa All-Star club teammate MacKenzie Hupke as Charles City edged top-ranked Independence, 1-0.
Heyer allowed just two hits, walked none and struck out 12 in the victory.
“That was a lot of fun,” Heyer said. “Mackenzie and I grew really close during the club season. I will admit I was kind of nervous because I know what she can do and have seen her in pressure situations.”
That victory over the Mustangs, Heyer says, shows how tight of a team Charles City is putting on the field.
“Last year was fun,” she said of the Comets’ run to the state tournament, which also included a win over Independence. “It was fun because it wasn’t expected and people didn’t know much about us. This year, people know more about us, are targeting us, and it has made us come together.
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“That game Friday showed our chemistry because the harder the game the more we come together as a team. It is really special because some teams freeze up in those situations. We stayed loose, pumped up and that got us the win.”
Heyer’s start in pitching came early on when she rose her hand when the Charles City Youth city league asked for volunteers to pitch. She progressed enough in the circle that she began taking pitching lessons with Northeast Iowa pitching coach Mark Koenigsfield three times a week by the time she was in the sixth grade.
Despite her second ACL injury during her freshman basketball season, Heyer was able to make five appearances for the Comets as a freshman two seasons ago, pitching 18 1/3 innings and posting a 2-1 record.
Relying on a four-pitch mix that includes a dropball, change-up, riseball and a fastball that has been clocked as fast as 64 miles per hour, Heyer followed that up with a breakout season last summer when she posted a 23-7 record while striking out 282 batters in 195 2/3 innings.
Those numbers earned her third-team all-state honors in Class 4A as a sophomore.
“I think I’ve gradually gotten better,” Heyer said. “I was pretty wild and not consistent when I started, but over the last couple of years I’ve put a lot of time into it and the results are showing in my game.”
Heyer committed to Northern Iowa in February after interest begin to spark from college coaches following her summer season and play with the Southeast Iowa All-Stars in the fall where she and Hupke split time pitching and playing first base.
“We traveled all over ... Iowa City, Des Moines and out-of-state,” Heyer said of the fall club team. “It was tough, because I’m committed to volleyball and I couldn’t play on Saturdays. We’d travel through the night to play on Sundays.
“But after that season, I started reaching out to colleges and UNI was interested. The coaches are awesome. I love the campus, my future teammates and that is how it happened (of her committing to UNI).”
Heyer plans on studying biology at UNI and because of her injury past she hopes to become a physician’s assistant.