Don't Count Karli Spaid, Miami University Out In 2023
A .408 batting average, 136 hits, 45 home runs and 119 RBIs would be a very impressive career stat line for any softball player. However, in Karli Spaid’s case, these are just the numbers from her first two college softball seasons.
The Chicago native and RedHawk at Miami University was named the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Freshman of the Year in 2021 and earned First-Team All-Region and First-Team All-MAC honors. She followed those honors up with a sophomore season during which she became the first All-American in program history. Add all the stats up and she is already first all-time in program history in home runs and career batting average, while ranking second in RBIs and runs scored.
What’s the secret behind all her success? For Spaid, it's all about positive affirmations.
“You just need to remind yourself that you’re where you are for a reason, you’ve worked for the success,” said Spaid. “Reminding myself of that and playing loose with that reminder, that’s when all the good things come.”
Spaid found herself in Oxford, Ohio because she was attracted to the college town experience that the area brought, which is something she couldn’t find in Chicago. She was welcomed the moment she arrived on campus, and after a few first-year jitters, became comfortable being herself with all her teammates as well. It didn’t take long to see that the RedHawks were the perfect fit for her.
In addition to the arrival of Spaid, good things have come in bunches for the RedHawks over the past two seasons. They will enter the 2023 campaign having made the NCAA tournament two years in a row and are looking to win their fourth straight regular-season conference title.
While Spaid led the team in home runs last season by a large margin with 28, five other players had double-digit home run totals, three others hit at least 10 doubles and five players racked up more than 20 walks. No matter who was at the plate, the confidence in Miami's dugout was high.
“It was easy to be loose and not stress in the box thinking, ‘you have to produce, you have to hit a home run this time,’ because if that wasn’t going to happen, you know that you have the rest of your lineup,” said Spaid.
Pitching also played a large role last season with fifth-year Courtney Vierstra and senior Brianna Pratt combining for 36 wins and 338 strikeouts. Pratt is returning this season as a graduate student, and while Vierstra will not be in the circle, she will still be in the dugout, but this time as a coach. According to Spaid, Vierstra has already made an impact in her new role.
“She’s so prepared and ready for this and I’m very excited that we’re the team that she gets to start her coaching career with, especially because we already have so much trust in her as a person and so does the rest of the coaching staff,” said Spaid. “She just knows so much.”
Rounding out the rest of the assistant coaching staff is professional softball player Morgan Zerkle, who, in addition to playing for Athletes Unlimited the past three seasons, has also played for Team USA. She is entering her third full season with the team.
Under head coach Kirin Kumar, the RedHawks are 86-27 and expectations for the program are high, with hopes centering on much more than just another conference championship or NCAA tournament appearance.
During her freshman season, Spaid recalls being a bit overwhelmed by her first regionals appearance, from the size of the field to the number of fans in the stands. With all the pressure she felt, according to Spaid, she did not play up to her expectations. Fast forward to this past season and Spaid made it a goal to remind herself every day that she was in the right place and that all her work had paid off. It is this mindset that the team needs to adopt, in Spaid’s opinion, to get to the next level.
“We know we have all the elements,” said Spaid. “We know we have the pitching, the hitting, the fielding, maybe even more so than in past years. It’s just trusting in ourselves that we’re here for a reason and then not letting it affect our play.”
For any team or anyone who thinks the RedHawks are not real contenders, Spaid has a message.
“Miami may be a mid-major, but we play like a Power Five program,” she said. “I don’t think there’s really anything mid-major about our program other than the fact that we’re in the MAC. The way we practice, the way we play, I think that shows in our record versus Power Five teams. Don’t count us out.”