For the past three years, Clay City senior Kari Bettenbrock has been at the top of her game both on the softball field and in the classroom. And on Nov. 13 all that hard work paid off when she signed a national letter-of-intent to continue her softball career for Indiana University.
Bettenbrock selected the Hoosiers over Evansville, Southern Indiana and St. Joseph's who had all expressed interest in the three-time All-Tri River Conference (TRC) and Southwestern Indiana Conference (SWIAC) team member.
"I liked the opportunities IU provided on and off the field, the proximity of the campus to my home and the size of the campus," commented Bettenbrock. "I also thought that the coaching staff was very energetic, competitive and had high goals that they hope to accomplish."
The coaching staff that Bettenbrock noted, is headed by coach Sarah Hayes Nottger who is in her second season as coach of the Hoosiers.
Nottger comes to IU after coaching Northern Iowa to a 33-26 mark in 2002, her second year with the Panthers. She also has great experience on the diamond, after being named the 1995 Midwest Collegiate Conference Player-of-the-Year as a senior at the University of Notre Dame.
Despite a tough 19-31 mark in her first year as the IU coach, Nottger brings in seven talented freshmen this season, including Bettenbrock who has high goals in joining the Hoosiers next year.
"I expect to play the corner (at IU) and my goal is to start as a freshman."
Bettenbrock isn't one to fail at many of the goals she has set for herself either on the field or off.
The list of her accomplishments on the softball field are impressive with the Eels: Three-year letterwinner, 2002 and 2003 Leadership Award, Three-year All-TRC and All-SWIAC, 2001 and 2002 Scholar Athlete Award and 2001 and 2003 Golden Bat Award. However, her academic accomplishments are just as impressive.
Bettenbrock is a member of the National Honor Society and has earned three Academic Letters as well as being a member of Who's Who Among American High School Students. Even more, she's ranked third in her class of 64 students at Clay City with a GPA of 4.4 on a 4.0 scale, an accomplishment she's just as proud of as any big hit or RBI.
"Softball is good, but I wouldn't be doing to IU if not for my grades," said Bettenbrock. Her mother, Kim Bettenbrock, also noted the work she's done on her way to her current level. "She's worked hard to get where she's at," said Kim Bettenbrock.
Bettenbrock who also had lettered as a freshman and sophomore in volleyball at Clay City, hit .492 as a junior for the Eels and reached base a remarkable 52 percent of the time. After her prep season was over, Bettenbrock was also a member of the Indiana Magic Traveling 16-and under softball team that placed fifth in the nation at the 2003 16-U ASA National Tournament in Texas after winning the State ASA Tournament for the second season in a row. At the National ASA Tournament, the Magic competed against 117 other teams across the country on their way to fifth place. "I think I learned the most from playing in the national tournaments," commented Bettenbrock. "I learned a lot from playing teams from Florida, Texas and California. We beat five teams from California."
That big game experience should come in handy this season for the Eels as Bettenbrock has set her sights on another sectional title with her Clay City teammates. The Eels won the 2001 sectional title and Bettenbrock hopes to add another trophy to the Eel's collection.
But after this season, Bettenbrock will take her talents to the national stage like she has for the Magic each season. "I really wanted the chance to play in the Big-10. That is another thing that influenced my choice," said Bettenbrock.
For Coach Nottger of the Hoosiers, Bettenbrock feels she can add a few different elements to the IU program. "I think my power hitting was one thing. Their coaching staff jokes with me about it. My work ethic and emotion for the game along with my attitude were some of the things I think they saw in me."
Though she has a larger stage in her sights for college, Bettenbrock is really looking forward to the upcoming Clay City season with second-year coach Amy Hammond. "I think we'll be really competitive. (Hammond) really pushes us. I think we'll be even better this season. (Hammond) got a late start last year but she's getting off-season programs started."
For Bettenbrock there is little offseason time from softball after concentrating solely on the sport after two years of volleyball. She plays travel ball nearly year round and will begin preparations with Clay City for another shot at a sectional title.
"I'd really like to win another sectional and winning the conference again would be good too," said Bettenbrock with a smile. That being said, the Eels should have high hopes for that sectional trophy. Because Bettenbrock doesn't let many goals go unachieved.