Freshman pitcher Anna Kasner has been on the recruiting radar of head coach Amy Suiter since she was 12 years old.
“I’ve been watching her pitch since she was little, and I think she was 12 or 13 when I first saw her throw,” Suiter said. “I was like, ‘What are you throwing?’ Because she just had crazy spin. That was the first thing that attracted me to her throwing.”
About six years later in her freshman season as a Viking, Kasner collected many accolades and became the ace of the pitching staff. Kasner earned awards including the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Co-pitcher and Co-freshman of the Year, along with GNAC First-Team and Conference Tournament MVP.
After the West Regional in California, Kasner can now add Division II Collegiate Commissioners Association All-West Region First-Team to the list.
“She was always self-motivated. She always has fun playing, so she always wanted to play. She always wanted to practice and get better. It was never a job.”
Diane Kasner, Anna’s mom
“I knew she had the potential but to have such a breakout year [as a freshman], I don’t know that anybody could have expected that,” Suiter said.
Kasner gave the credit for her accomplishments to her teammates.
She had impressive numbers for the season, while also setting records along the way. She set the Western record for most strikeouts per seven innings with 9.16, eclipsing the old record of 8.65 set by Erika Quint in 2011.
As the season progressed, Suiter said Kasner grew both in the circle and in her mind.
“Mentally, she continually grew throughout the year,” Suiter said. “We [also] introduced new pitches to her in the middle of the year to compliment her riseball. She was throwing a drop[ball] at the end of the year. To be able to do that midyear is pretty fantastic.”
Kasner said the decision to add the dropball came after a rough outing against Central Washington University, her worst start of the year.
Central tagged her for eight runs over 5 2/3 innings, and Kasner said after the game she knew she had to add the pitch.
Kasner said another place she had to improve was her level of confidence. She said she was intimidated as a freshman, especially with the quality of hitters in the GNAC.
Despite how Kasner felt, Suiter said she gave the team a lot of confidence when she pitched.
“I think presence is everything [as a pitcher], and people really found a calm when she was in the circle. That’s hard to do at a young age,” Suiter said.
Diane Kasner, Anna’s mom, said the best part of watching her success this year was that it was the accumulation of a lot of hard work.
“In the off-season she works really hard at that, so for it to pay off for her, it makes us so happy for her,” Diane said.
Kasner never needed encouragement to continue progressing through softball, Diane said.
“She was always self-motivated. She always has fun playing, so she always wanted to play. She always wanted to practice and get better. It was never a job,” Diane said.
Kasner said her intense workout routine comes from a serious back injury she sustained as a child.
“I went to physical therapy and they were like, ‘Okay, so, you’re weak. You need to start working out more,’” Kasner said. “Ever since then it just became a habit.”
That strong work ethic showed in practice, and helped earn her a spot batting in the lineup as the season progressed, Suiter said.
By the time the GNAC tournament came around, Kasner was hitting in the fifth spot in the lineup, a spot typically used for reliable hitters, and was hitting .380.
Suiter said while Kasner brings on-field success, it isn’t necessarily the most important thing she brings to the team as a whole.
“She’s such a great teammate too, she’s super humble. That takes a lot, to have that much success in your freshman year,” Suiter said. “Her being humble and being such a good teammate is a big plus.”
Diane echoed what Suiter said, and said Kasner’s ability to stay modest about her game is one of the things she loves most about her.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter,” Diane said.
Kasner said her favorite memory from the season was winning the GNAC tournament with her team.
“I remember [Kali Patterson] caught the pop-up at second and looking at her and I leaped in her arms,” Kasner said. “It was definitely one of those moments that I’ll never forget.”
Looking forward, Suiter has some big expectations for Kasner and her presence on the diamond.
“I think you see her start to lead on, and off, the field and really become a force to compete with,” Suiter said, adding that she has a very good chance to break the all-time strikeout record of 478.
When asked if Kasner might go down as one of the all-time greats of Western, Suiter didn’t need to hear the whole question to answer.