KNOX, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Softballs don’t stand a chance against Natalie Bowser.
She murders them. Destroys them. Pounds them all over the park — and many times out of it.
The Keystone slugger is a pitcher’s worst nightmare. There’s no hiding from her potent bat — and teams have tried. Bowser, a 6-foot pitcher/first baseman who is entering her junior year, has a unique blend of patience and power at the plate.
“I’ve been coaching for more than 20 years,” said Keystone softball coach John Stiglitz. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s incredible.”
So incredible, in fact, the numbers Bowser put up during her sophomore season this spring look like misprints.
She batted .766. She hit as many home runs — 14 — as she made outs. She drove in 48 runs in just 19 games. She had 15 doubles.
And, she homered in eight consecutive games during the hottest of her season-long hot streak.
And to think Bowser didn’t even know if she even wanted to play softball when she joined her first team eight years ago.
“I never did anything competitive, ever,” Bowser said. “I just got told I needed to play.”
So, she did – and took the field for her first softball tournament as a young girl with no expectations about what kind of player she could be.
It didn’t take her long to realize she was a natural at the sport. She displayed raw power and a keen batting eye from the start, even back then.
“I hit my first home run at eight years old,” Bowser said. “So, right there, I knew softball was going to be the game that I love.”
Fast forward to 2021 and Bowser went from a virtual unknown after her freshman campaign at Keystone was scuttled when all spring sports were canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic to one of the most feared hitters in District 9.
Her first taste of varsity softball finally came this year.
It took some time for Bowser to notice the epic season she was having. More focused on helping Keystone win games, she was slow to realize the gaudy numbers she was piling up.
“But when you have an eight-game home run streak, you kind of can see that something’s clicking right with your swing,” Bowser said. “That’s probably when I saw how amazing my season was gonna be.”
That’s also about the time opponents started pitching carefully to Bowser.
Or, not at all.
The respect for Bowser was no more evident than in the District 9 Class 2A championship game against Moniteau when the Warriors intentionally walked her in four of her five plate appearances.
The other at bat? A home run, what else?
Bowser focused on not getting too frustrated or flustered while getting pitched around. Instead, she kept the same approach at the plate as she had from the very beginning of the season — wait for a good pitch and crush it.
“I just did what I could do,” Bowser said. “And, I focused on what I could control. I had a lot of teammates who I trusted who can swing the bat. I felt like it didn’t matter if I walked because I knew my other teammates were going to be right there behind me to hit.”
Bowser’s season has earned her lots of postseason accolades, including a first-team all-state nod in Class 2A, as well as a spot on the All-American underclassmen team as chosen by Maxpreps.com (even though the site called her Natilie Browser).
Bowser was most proud of her all-state selection.
“It was one of those things where I was like, ‘Is this reality? Is this a dream?’” Bowser said. “It was my first season of high school softball, and I made this all-star team.”
Bowser also pitched for Keystone, going 7-3. She’s the kind of pitcher she loathes facing as a hitter, using spin and movement to get outs instead of pure heat.
“I like batting against the faster pitchers,” Bowser said. “So, yeah, I would hate hitting against myself.”
Bowser isn’t worried about the sophomore slump — or the junior slump, in this case. That’s because she’s never satisfied and is always working on her craft.
“I have put a lot of work into the sport,” Bowser said. “When I didn’t feel good about hitting, I always stayed after and had my coaches pitch to me. Or, I would just go back to the fundamentals and work at home off a tee. I’m doing the same reps, the same work to keep myself in that same mentality at the plate.
“I only know one way to work,” she added. “I know the dedication and hard work I’ve put in and there’s no way I could regress. So, there’s only moving up and forward with this.”