Werner signs to pitch at St. FrancisFebruary 27, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Mia Werner’s dream to play college softball stems back to when she first started playing when she was eight years old. The work ethic and determination that she has has taken her to being Jasper’s pitcher since she was a freshman, two sectional championships, a regional title and the dream coming true on Thursday when she signed to continue pitching at the University of St. Francis.
Werner also drew interest from Wabash Volley College and Indiana University South Bend, but she decided she was going to stay in the “cat” family, as she will go from being a Wildcat to a Cougar. She made her decision around November and December.
“All the people were very supportive of me in my decision, and I felt very welcomed by everyone,” Werner said.
She loves the competitiveness that comes with the game, the exhilaration she has when she succeeds in the circle and the people that she’s with. The memories go far beyond the time that she’s had as a Wildcat — such as the weekend tournament she’s taken part in through the years, or when her father, Tim, took her to pitching lessons close to Cincinnati.
Some memories resonate with Jasper softball coach Matt Pryor, who recalled numerous nights when Mia was practicing with Tim inside Jasper’s fieldhouse. Pryor lauded Mia as the definition of hard work — of somebody who had the commitment to go from a good player to a great player. One thing that he appreciates about Mia is that his own daughter, Layla, wants to be like her.
“You can’t get a better compliment than that,” Matt said.
Mia followed in the footsteps of another Jasper pitcher, Olivia Knies, who took the circle when she was a freshman and graduated in 2017 just before Mia got into high school. The newly minted signee stood out to Matt from when she entered the program.
“Just seeing her poise on Day One was incredible,” he said.
Mia didn’t get to have a junior softball season because the COVID-19 pandemic shut down spring sports, but even if spring sports did happen, she was going to be out of action due to an injured foot, and Matt anticipated that would’ve rejoined the team sometime in May.
However, she was still looking forward to supporting all of her teammates — regardless of the injury. She still wanted to bring a positive attitude to the team to help her teammates get more comfortable and work well together.
She’s set to have that opportunity this year, though, and her sister, Ava, a freshman, will be joining Mia on the Wildcats in 2021.
“I think it’ll be amazing just to be with her, have her presence with me,” Mia said. “She’ll motivate even more to do better than I can.”
Mia hopes to be a great leader and win another sectional title with Jasper before she heads off to St. Francis as a radiology major. She said she’s gotten stronger since she last pitched for Jasper as a sophomore, and Matt noted that she’s added pitches that have a tighter spin that are breaking and not bending.
He called her one of the top pitchers in the state, and while he anticipates the team might have some rust in the beginning, Jasper sets it goals high. Matt put it that Jasper isn’t “grossly deep,” but has “a solid 10-12 girls.”
When Mia joins the Cougars, she’ll be joining a program that hasn’t had as much winning as it would’ve liked. St. Francis went 27-24 during the 2019 campaign in what was its first winning season since 2012. The Cougars finished the 2020 season at 4-11 at the time that the virus halted play.
“I’ll just bring everything I can to the table for both my team and myself,” Mia said. “I think it’ll be good because practice makes perfect, and I plan to keep practicing up there as well.”
“Winning is contagious, a winning attitude is contagious,” Matt said. “So, when you go into a program that has suffered, you’re a new light. You get to come in and say, ‘You know? This is what I’m accustomed to and this what I want to bring to the program.’ I don’t think it’s going to be the opposite where that sense of not winning and stuff like that is going to bring her down.
“I think her culture, her history of winning, is going to bring them up,” he continued. “And her attitude, her work ethic, everyone’s going to see that and a lot of times, it just takes one player to put that effort and put that attitude into a program, and everyone else will rise up to the challenge. And I think she’ll do that.”
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