By Rob Kiser
Piqua seniors Kyla Blankenship and Cassidy Kraft have always demonstrated their leadership on the field and golf course, respectively.
On Thursday, the two made their college choices in the Piqua High School commons.
Blankenship, the daughter of Eric and Angie Blankenship, will play softball for Saint Louis Community College.
Blankenship’s numbers on the field speak for themselves.
As a freshman, she started at third base and batted .308 with two doubles, a triple and 15 RBIs.
Her sophomore season, she had a .400 average with 15 doubles, a triple and 25 RBIs.
As a junior, she improved to a .443 average with 10 doubles, a triple, a home run and 27 RBIs.
But, what really tells you everything you need to know about Blankenship is her senior season.
As the season approached, Piqua needed a pitcher.
It would have been easy for Blankenship to stay at third base — but she knew she could help the team more on the mound.
Her freshman season, Piqua had won 21 games and shared the league title — and she didn’t want any less her final season.
“I knew what I had to do,” Blankenship said. “Especially with it being my senior year, I wanted to have a good season.”
All she did was roll up a 19-4 record with a 1.86 ERA and record 162 strikeouts in 142-plus innings.
Her win total led the GWOC and her strikeout total was second in the GWOC.
At the plate, she batted .425 with six doubles, a triple and 33 RBIs.
The Indians again shared the GWOC North title and Blankenship was named GWOC North Player of the Year and earned All-GWOC honors, along with being All-GWOC North for three straight seasons.
And in the process, Blankenship drew the interest of Saint Louis CC.
“They showed a lot of interest in me,” Blankenship said. “They are looking at me as a pitcher. I wanted to go somewhere that was away from home, but not too far away from home.”
Piqua softball coach Rick Claprood sees Blankenship as a player with a bright future.
“She pitched a little bit as a junior, but that was it,” Claprood said. “When we started out we had five girls we were looking at as a pitcher and Kyla (Blankenship) stepped up. Now, she will have all summer to work on it — which didn’t last year. Saint Louis is a great fit for her. They recruited her hard. And she will be able to go on and play two more years after she is done there.”
Blankenship is happy to know her immediate future.
“I eventually want to play at a four-year school,” Blankenship said. “But, right now, I am looking forward to playing for Saint Louis.”
Kraft, the daughter of Shelby Kraft and Brian Branson, was the top golfer on the Piqua girls golf team and will take her talents to Urbana University.
“I always wanted to play college golf and I wanted to stay somewhere close,” Kraft said. “I think I can still improve a lot and I think playing for Urbana is going to help me a lot.”
Kraft has made steady progress in her three seasons on the Piqua team.
As a sophomore, she was ranked 72nd with a 65.35 stroke average for nine holes.
Her junior season, she improved to 47th with a 54.43 stroke average, earning special mention All-GWOC North honors.
As a senior, Kraft dropped her stroke average to 50 and was ranked 24th in the GWOC, earning All-GWOC North honors.
“I have always liked playing golf and I am looking forward to playing for Urbana University,” she said.
And both schools will benefit from the talents and leadership of the Piqua duo.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.