Baldwin School pitcher Samantha O’Keefe is Main Line Girls Athlete of the Week

A first team All-InterAc softball selection last spring, and the Polar Bears’ MVP the last two years, O’Keefe opened Baldwin’s 2016 season with a complete-game one-hitter, striking out 13 batters. Last spring, she batted .367 with 19 RBI’s, 13 runs scored and five stolen bases, and struck out 104 batters while hurling 15 complete games. Baldwin softball head coach David Pulli said, “Sam is unselfish and an amazing softball athlete. She loves the game and her teammates look up to her. She leads by example, always positive. She’s mentally tough and battles through adversity with ease. I wish she was a freshman so I could coach her four more years!” O’Keefe also participates in varsity soccer (as the Polar Bears’ starting goalie) in the fall, and swimming in the winter.

Q: Can you pick up clues to what to throw to a hitter while watching her in pre-game batting practice? Can you give an example of this?

A: During pre-game warmups I am more focused on getting myself and my team warmed up and ready for the start of the game, however I do take note to a few things. I look to see if the other team has any lefty slappers or who their stronger hitters are, which you can often tell by their swings. I can usually also tell whether a hitter favors the outside or inside pitches by watching them hit front toss. If they are pulling everything they most likely favor the inside pitches and if they are hitting everything to right field they most likely favor the outside pitches. One other thing that I look for in a hitter is where they position themselves in the batter’s box.

Q: In your first start this season, a one-hitter in which you struck out 13 batters, what pitches were particularly working well for you?

A: It was the first game of the season and I have been working really hard to perfect my pitches this year, so I was using this game to see how everything was working. I threw a variety of pitches, but in particular I was really able to hit my marks with my fastball while mixing in my curve that was breaking really well. I would also use my change up to throw the batters off balance later in the count.

Q: Who are your favorite pitchers? Do you try to pattern your game after any of them?

A: Definitely one of my favorite pitchers is Jennie Finch, I admire her for her confidence on the mound and her control that she had over her pitches, I often try to mirror these qualities off of her. Confidence and control is definitely two qualities that are my main focus this year. A few of my previous pitching coaches have been college pitchers and have had a lot of influence on my game. I often set goals for the game and talk about the best approach for each game with them.

Q: After facing a hitter a couple of times in a game, you probably have a better idea of what to throw her late in a game. Can you give us an example of how this has worked in your favor?

A: After facing a hitter for the first time, I am able to pick up what type of hitter they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are, for example if they are late or ahead of the pitch, or if they favor the inside of outside of the plate. This will often help me to know what type of pitches to throw them. I actually already know a lot of the players in the league because I have played with them or against them during the travel softball season, so I already have an idea of how to pitch them.

Q: Last year, you batted .367, with 19 RBI’s, 13 runs scored and five stolen bases. Where do you usually bat in the lineup? Does your batting approach change when you are moved up or down in the lineup order?

A: I usually bat first or fourth in the lineup, but this varies throughout the season depending on where my team needs me. As a leadoff hitter I know that my job is to get on base any way I can. Leading off gives me more of an opportunity to bunt, steal and use my speed. When I am in the fourth hole, I act more as a power hitter and my job in this spot is to score any runners that are on base. Although my approach may change depending on where I bat in the lineup, I always go up with the same mentality, to do my best and to have confidence in myself.

Q: Last year, you struck out 104 batters and pitched 15 complete games, earning first team All-InterAc honors. What to you was the biggest key to your mound success last year?

A: The biggest key to my mound success last year was knowing that my team had my back no matter what. Our team had such a great bond and I made such great relationships with every girl on the team, this allowed me to be calm and composed on the mound. I also had a lot of support from my teammates, coaches and many members of the Baldwin community. I would tell myself before every game to do my best and stay confident in both my team and myself. I also try to keep a very short memory, when there is an error made or a bad pitch thrown I realize how I could have eliminated the error and immediately move on.

Q: What do you think is the strongest part of your game? What part of your game are you working on the most currently?

A: The strongest part of my game is definitely my hitting this year. I am always working on my pitching because although it is my main position for school, I do not pitch as frequently outside of school. I usually play shortstop or center field.

Q: Who have been your biggest softball mentors, and what was the most important thing each of them taught you?

A: All of my coaches since I started playing softball, each one of them have all helped me to grow into the player that I am today. My biggest softball mentor is definitely my dad. He has coached me since I started playing softball and has supported me through everything. He definitely has given me my competitive spirit and has taught me commitment and confidence.

Q: Tell us a little about your pre-game preparation the day of a game.

A: The night before a game I always try and get a lot of sleep. On the day of the game I always eat healthy, lots of fruits and veggies and stay very hydrated throughout the day. Sometimes the team will eat lunch together to start thinking about the game. We start every game off with a team huddle on the mound and our team handshake, that is always great to get everyone pumped up and ready to play.

Q: What (to you) has been the highlight (most memorable moment) of your club softball career?

A: My highlight of my club softball career was when my team won states. We had a great overall season record of 69-11-1. The reason that we were able to come so far was because of the bond that everyone shared on the team. That was a few years ago, but to this day we are all still great friends and have a strong bond.

Q: What colleges are among your current favorites? What do you think you might want to major in? Is there a particular career path that interests you at the present time?

A: I am going to major in nursing, and right now I plan to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. I am still deciding whether I want to play in college, but as far as softball goes I am looking at two colleges, one in Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina.

Q: Do you participate in any other extracurricular activities outside of softball, soccer and swimming, at Baldwin School? What sparked your interest in these activities?

A: I love doing community service, like running softball camps for elementary students and volunteering at local soup kitchens with my family. I am also a volunteer at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Fun facts – Samantha O’Keefe

Favorite book: The Hunger Game Series.

Favorite TV show: Big Brother.

Favorite movie: “Grown Ups, but really any Adam Sandler movie.”

Favorite athlete: Jennie Finch.

Favorite pre-game pump-up song: My House.

Favorite team: Women’s USA National Softball Team.

Favorite place to visit: Stone Harbor, N.J. and Jamaica.

Favorite pre-game meal: Fruits (apples) and vegetables (carrots).

Favorite color: Blue.

Person you most admire, and why: “My parents because of all of their support.”

Birth date: Sept. 1, 1998 in Bryn Mawr.

Your family members: Parents John and Norma; siblings Christopher and Amanda; dog Ditto.

(To be selected as Main Line Girls Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by her coach.)

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