Prep of the Year Honorable Mention: Sadie Leonard

Samantha Michaels

Walking up to her teammates, a sense of calm fills her body in the midst of all the pre-game jitters. One by one, she greets every teammate with a special handshake, each one different, but meaningful nonetheless. She continues on with her usual warm up, stretching and then stepping up to the mound, she throws to her catcher, who quickly tosses the ball to second base and then right back to her. In the end, her team meets her on the mound, completing senior pitcher Sadie Leonard’s pre-game ritual. She credits the consistency of this pattern with relieving her pre-game nerves.

Smiling at her teammates, Leonard focuses herself and her entire team before stepping on the mound to pitch. (courtesy of Sadie Leonard)

“That’s one of my favorite routines [because] before every inning I’m able to be on the mound, but there aren’t any consequences yet,” Leonard said. “I get to [adjust] to the feeling of everyone looking at me, so when I step on the mound to actually throw my first pitch to the batter, I feel like I am gathered.”

While the pre-game ritual is a recent addition, Leonard’s love of softball stems back to her early adolescence. What started as a low-stress activity in elementary school soon turned into an ever growing passion that led her to join the Marin Tremor’s travel ball team in middle school. However, it wasn’t until her freshman year, that she realized softball was the sport she couldn’t imagine herself living without. Her new focus on softball has elevated her game significantly. This year alone, she has pitched 124.2 innings, thrown 272 strikeouts, and accumulated an earned run average (era) of 0.84. All of which contributed to Leonard being named the 2022 Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) Softball Pitcher of the Year. 

As she reflects on her final season in the Giants uniform, it is not her personal recognition that she acknowledges, but instead two highly valued regular season wins against Marin Catholic (MC), on March 28th and April 27th. 

“Both of them were extra inning games and [they] were so intense that every single second, it felt like everyone was holding their breath from all of the anxiety and excitement,” Leonard said. “It wasn’t until the last pitch of both of those games when you could feel everyone breathe for the first time [since the start of the game] and it’s the best feeling ever.” 

Winding up to throw a pitch, Leonard prepares to strike-out her opponent. (courtesy of Sadie Leonard)

Redwood varsity head coach Emily Atkinson has been able to experience all of the ups and downs alongside the young pitcher. Atkinson first met Leonard during her freshman year season and was drawn to her unrelenting drive. Atkinson encouraged Leonard to join the travel ball team she was coaching and the two have been on the same team all year round ever since. As Leonard’s skills have improved over the years, so has an important part of her mental game, which Atkinson believes has been the key to her success. 

“She has grown so much in every aspect of her game, but her confidence is [definitely] one of the things that has grown massively,” Atkinson said. “[Her confidence] has impacted all of her different skills and her decision to want to play softball in college… over the [past] year, she believed in herself so much more and [was like] “okay, I can actually do this.’”

In the fall, Leonard will be attending Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where she will be continuing her softball career at the Division III level. Her decision to do so was based on her instant comfort with the team and her connection with the morals of the program. As she begins a new chapter in her softball career, Atkinson only hopes that the pitcher’s love of the game only continues to grow in her time at the next level. 

“I want her to make sure that she keeps loving the game because when it stops becoming fun, it feels more like something you have to do versus something that you enjoy doing,” Atkinson said. “I hope she always has that feeling and remembers why she started playing, so that she keeps loving the game.”