What It’s Like To Play College Softball A Semester Early
Sam Kihega, a Greenfield, Ind. native, graduated from New Palestine High School a semester early in 2020 and immediately began her college softball career at the University of Southern Indiana.
She spent her first three years of high school at Greenfield-Central High School before transferring to New Palestine. Kihega played the majority of her travel ball career for Indiana Shockwaves – Perry. She has made a huge impact on the Screaming Eagles' powerful offense and has been behind the plate for her first three seasons there.
Softball America caught up with Kihega to discuss her journey to USI, which just went from a Division II program to the Division I level in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC).
Softball America: Why did you decide to commit to USI?
Sam Kihega: I decided that USI was my home because the coaches were so kind and viewed me as not only a softball player, but as a person and student as well. The campus was so beautiful, and the distance away from my home and the size of the campus were just perfect for my liking.
SA: What was it like graduating high school a semester early and immediately playing college softball in the spring?
SK: Graduating high school early was not part of my plan at all, but I am sure glad that it happened. Graduating early and heading to college to not only begin my degree, but begin my college softball career was scary. I was the youngest player on my team and had no real relationships built with anyone, while the whole team had the fall season to bond. It was quite scary to be in that position, but my coaches and teammates were amazing and made me feel at home immediately.
SA: What has your overall experience at USI been like?
SK: My experience at USI has been nothing less than remarkable. When I first arrived here in January of 2020, I was excited to see where the season was going to take us, as we were ranked high up in the conference. But then COVID happened, and everyone was sent home and seasons were cut short.
The following year, our team was involved in a car accident early in the fall season that we just never really recovered from that year, and as a team, we discovered it was hard to win. This past season, we finished sixth nationally and made a World Series appearance in Denver, while having the most wins in a season and hosting our regionals and super regionals at home.
Now, with the change that has happened at USI, we are a Division I school in the Ohio Valley Conference, so my overall time here at USI has been full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
SA: When did you start playing softball and what made you stick with it?
SK: I started tee ball at age three, but my first memories from softball came at age six when I started my hitting and pitching lessons. I actually began travel ball at age seven, mainly because my older sister was going to play travel and my parents wanted to keep us together, but I remember those times as some of the best memories ever and still have relationships with some of those girls I played with to this day.
SA: Do you have any advice for softball players currently going through the recruiting process?
SK: Some advice that I would give to players going through the recruiting process right now is to never stress and never stop enjoying the ride. Stressing about trying to find the perfect school right away takes away the enjoyment of travel ball. You worked for this, let the ride work for you. And, to end, remember, you are enough.