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Underwood fuels 12-0 start for Northeast softball

ARMA, Kan. – The Northeast Vikings are off to a perfect 12-0 start to the spring softball season.

“It’s a breath of fresh air to know that we’re changing things up from our history here,” says sophomore catcher Lexi Yarnell, “It just feels really good to get off to a great start.”

“We go in with a simple approach. We’re not trying to do anything fancy,” says Northeast head coach Gillian Barker, “We just want to field the ball and make good throws. When we’re hitting we want to keep it down and hard. Communication and teamwork have both been big keys for us.”

Sophomore Shelby Underwood is off to an unbelievable start both on offense and in the pitching circle for the Vikings.

Underwood has collected hits in 26 of her 28 at-bats so far this season, hitting for a .929 average. She has 7 home runs and 7 doubles – racking up a team-high 37 RBI in just 12 games.

“I just go up trying to put the ball in-play,” Underwood says, “You can’t swing for the fences every time. I just try to get on base for my team.”

“It’s not normal,” coach Barker says with a laugh on Underwood starting the season 26-28 at the plate, “It just shows how hard she works. She doesn’t just go through the motions. She takes every swing and makes it meaningful. She doesn’t go up there trying to hit home runs. She just keeps it simple and puts the bat on the ball.”

Underwood is 9-0 as a pitcher in 11 appearances for the Vikings. She has 86 strikeouts in just 43 innings.

“She has been such a workhorse,” Barker says of Underwood, “She’s pitching every day. I make her go home and ice because we need her arm. She rises to every challenge. We’ve taught her a couple new pitches and she never complains. She goes out there with a smile pretty much every time.”

“I think my changeup has improved the most and made a big difference,” Underwood says “I’ve learned a new changeup. It’s really helped. I’ve struggled trying to find so many changeups. It has helped me through this whole season.”

The sophomore standout has been able to be aggressive in the circle for Northeast – with an offense that’s scoring 16 runs-per-game and hitting .556 as a team.

“I love seeing that our team is scoring runs and backing her up. It just shows we can hit and we can do other things,” Yarnell says, “It’s not just our pitching, catching or our defense. It’s everything working together.”

“It’s important for her to know that her team does have her back. Even if she does give up a couple runs, she knows that our offense is going to be right there,” Barker says, “That’s huge, especially as a pitcher. You put a lot of pressure on yourself. Knowing they are there to back her up is huge for her.

On top of posting crazy stats to begin the season, Underwood has become a leader on the team as just a sophomore.

“If I was new here you told me she was a sophomore after watching her play, I would have said you were crazy,” Barker says, “She has a lot of poise and she’s a great kid. She has a lot of heart. I think a lot of that comes from her family and playing travel softball in Kansas City. All of that shows here on the field.”

While Underwood and the Vikings are happy with where they are through their first 12 games, their goals go beyond a good start.

“Last year we made it past the first round, but we ran into Colgan. It was a difficult loss,” Yarnell, “Our goal is to make it deeper than that this year.”

“I would like to make it to state,” Underwood says, “I want to win the sub-state tournament and go to state, and then try to win the state tournament. That’s a big goal, but that’s my whole goal this entire season.”

The Vikings are back in action on Friday afternoon, hosting a TRL matchup against the Southeast Lancers.

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