From Tessa Steffen’s own lips regarding college softball, “it is much harder to hit the ball than in high school.”
While it might be the statement of every college hitter referring to the advanced caliber of college pitching, everyone would probably agree that Steffens, who graduated from Litchfield in 2015 and played four years of softball at Purdue University-Northwest, was successful not only as a college player with the Pride, but as a hitter.
The former Purple Panther wasted no time in making an impact on her college team, which at that time was called Purdue University-Calumet, by starting all 51 games as a freshman, She would post a .266 batting average and led the team in runs scored (34) and stolen bases (seven).
She would not post a batting average below the .266 mark she posted as a freshman. She would post a career-high batting average of .302 as a senior in 2019. In 96 trips to the plate as a senior, she finished with 29 hits, one of which was a double, one was a triple and four was a homer.
She would cross the plate 18 times, drove home 14 runs, walked eight times and stole two bases. She finished with an on-base percentage of .352 and a slugging percentage of .458. In the field, she had a .914 fielding percentage. She had 44 putouts, 95 assisted putouts and 13 errors.
While Steffens was presented the unique challenges that college softball presents to every player, Purdue University-Northwest not only went through a name change after the 2017 season, but they also changed national governing bodies, not to mention switching conferences.
They went from being a NAIA team to being a NCAA Division II team. They also went from the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“It was way tougher competition and much more of a time commitment playing Division II,” said Steffens. “We had to prepare more and had much longer road trips. While it was much more exhausting, it was exciting to compete at a higher level and know I had the ability to compete at a higher level.”
Steffens played in 190 games during her career. In 548 trips to the plate, she had 157 for a career batting average of .286. She had 22 doubles, five triples and 11 homers. The infielder also had 102 runs scored, 74 RBIs, 50 walks and 20 stolen bases. Defensively, she made 290 putouts, 366 assisted putouts and 50 errors for a .929 fielding percentage.
The Pride posted a winning season in 2017 and also had a winning season in the CCAC that year. In the first two years, they were 51-52-1 overall and 27-22 in the CCAC. They were 50-51 in the final two years of Steffens’ career. They were 29-35 in the GLIAC.
“I thought my best year was my sophomore year,” said Steffens. “If I picked a game that I will never forget it was winning a game during a conference tournament game our first year in Division II. I had a hard time getting used to the weather and we had three coaching changes in four years.. I miss my teammates so much. We always found a way to have a good time, no matter what we were doing. I have created some lifelong friends along the way.”
The daughter of Marty and Kara Steffens of Litchfield earned a degree in May 2019. She earned a degree in finance and has a minor in human resources. She graduated with an undergraduate grade point average of 3.95 on a 4.0 scale.
For her work in the classroom, she was named a National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American Scholar Athlete in 2018 and 2019. She was also a College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-American during her sophomore year.
While the athletic career ended in May 2019, the education rolls merrily along. Steffens is now in law school at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. She is finishing her first year of law school. During the summer months, she will be working for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Indianapolis, IN.
“I was heavily involved in the Student Athlete Advisory Committe (SAAC) my last two years,” said Steffens. “It is something I am extremely proud of. I loved being that connection between the student-athletes and the administration. I loved being the voice for my team. Being part of a softball team has taught me time and stress management skills, because that is something that you really have to learn being a college athlete. It also taught me how to handle rejection and failure, which has been extremely useful in law school and the real world in general. I will always be a little tougher mentally because of it.”
A Message From Dan Chamness
Because of my illness, I was not able to get all the career completion articles done last year. Therefore, if your son/daughter ended their athletic career during the 2018-19 school year, as Steffens did, or during the 2019-2020 school year, as Carly Cameron and Austin Grabow did, then I would like to do a feature on them. Simply e-mail me (Dan62801@aol.com) and I will contact the schools and get it done. Please put “The Journal-News” in the subject line of the e-mail.
Because of this virus, there are not many sports going on and this is an opportune time to get this finished. This is a very tough time in the young people’s lives, not only athletically, but every senior has missed some milestone events in their lives that most of us had a chance to have in our lifetime.
Just remember that no official putting these temporary rules in place are doing it to be mean-spirited. They are doing it for all of our safety. So remember to be safe out there and stay home as much as you can. And to you people that go out everyday and run the risk of getting sick so the rest of us have food and other essential things, thank you so much.