SMU Athlete Spotlight: Kylee Vanderbout of SMU Softball
Ryne Oshiro, Staff Writer
Despite the season’s abrupt end in March of 2020, Saint Martin’s University Softball looks to keep their eyes on their collective goal of making and capturing a Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship. The Saints began conference play on March 19, 2021, nearly 365 days since the last season was canceled. Unfortunately, the Saints were swept by Northwest Nazarene after seeing injuries plague the team. A key to success for any sports team is how they handle adversity when challenges arise, especially when those challenges are ones that are out of the team’s control.
For Kylee Vanderbout and the Saints this ability to overcome the challenges will prove just how far this team is willing to go to win. Vanderbout was tabbed with GNAC Player of the Week Honors back in the last week of February after providing the Saints with two key hits in crunch time. In their first game back since the pandemic, Vanderbout delivered a three-run bases-clearing double that helped widen the Saints’ lead against their Division III opponent Pacific University. Then, in the second game she connected on a two-run home run that powered the Saints to another win. The win also came at the hands of her teammate Tia Ridings who pitched a complete game shutout as the Saints eventually went on to win the game 3-0.
Vanderbout came to Saint Martin’s from Happy Valley, Oregon and earned first team all-league selections in her freshman, sophomore, and junior years of high school. The one thing that Vanderbout stated after being asked about the current season, is that she was very optimistic and grateful to be having the opportunity to play once again.
“I think we’re all grateful to be able to play even with the adjustments with all the COVID guidelines, but it is better than having no season,” she said. “I am also grateful for the coaching staff and my teammates; the coaches go above and beyond for each and every one of us and I’ve never had a more dedicated and caring coaching staff. The girls are like family to me and there’s no other team I’d want to spend every day on the field with.”
Last season, Vanderbout played in sixteen games and had 51 at-bats. In those 51 at-bats she hit .373 which was ranked sixth in the GNAC. She also held a .588 slugging percentage prior to the cancelation of the season, which also ranked sixth in the GNAC. Her eight stolen bases were ranked second in the GNAC only behind teammate Emery Norwood. The Saints will look to bounce back quickly with the closure of Concordia University and the current pandemic, and their schedule has now been shortened to 20 total GNAC games. This means there will only be 16 conference games left for the Saints to make a bid for the GNAC tournament. Just like the team, Vanderbout also looks to bounce back to her player-of-the-week form as she has seen her batting average decrease during the most recent series.
The Saints’ next game will be held in Ellensburg as they head to Central Washington University to take on the Wildcats for another four-game series. As for Vanderbout, she says that her goal for the year is to make every day a better day than the one before, and remember to have fun and remind herself why she is playing the game she loves.