Fresh from wrist surgery, senior pitcher Kara Clauss said it was a strong drive that helped her throw the second no-hitter in program history in the Colonials’ 3-0 victory over Mount Saint Mary’s March 13.
Pitching a no-hitter, a significant accomplishment for any pitcher, was especially rewarding for the senior, who took to the mound this season intending for her performance to establish a successful return.
“I’m a big believer in letting my actions speak louder than my words,” Clauss said. “I really try to push myself.”
She underwent surgery in January after a cyst developed on her right wrist, her pitching arm. Unable to perform her normal training drills, Clauss focused on cardio conditioning, which weakened the cartiledge in her right ankle, putting the pitcher in a boot for six weeks. She returned fully from both injuries just a few weeks before the season began.
At first, Clauss said she expected to start the season performing at her personal peak, but returning from the surgery and its complications was more challenging than anticipated. She focused on rehabilitation exercises that slowly increased the pace and force of her throws, and estimates her performance was at about 80 percent of her potential power as play opened.
But Clauss continued to push herself in practice, determined to return to the level of play she brought to the field before injury. It paid off– GW picked up its first win of the season March 3, defeating Robert Morris with Clauss on the mound for seven innings of one-run ball.
“I know that I need to help our team out and be a dominating part of our pitching staff,” Clauss said. “I knew that I needed to come back and work even harder in practice and work to get to where I was at the end of last season.”
Her passion for the game doesn’t go unnoticed by Clauss’ teammates. She was nominated by the rest of the Colonials to serve as the only captain this season, and she is vocal about her desire to motivate her teammates through her actions.
Head coach Stacey Schramm said Clauss expects more out of her teammates than they expect out of themselves – a leadership quality that pushes the entire roster on the field.
“When she stands on the mound, the team is just very comfortable. She doesn’t even realize the impact that she has on her teammates,” Schramm said.
Clauss pitched her fourth shutout of the season against Hampton Tuesday, allowing five hits and walking none in GW’s 3-0 victory in game one of a doubleheader. While she is playing, Clauss said she focuses only on the game, shutting out all other distractions.
She doesn’t shake her intense focus for anything, even an outstanding performance. During her no-hitter, Clauss didn’t know what she had accomplished until after the game
“I normally don’t like to know that type of thing until after the game, because it puts added pressure to make sure I finish the game properly,” she said.
When Clauss graduates this spring, she’ll leave as a standout performer for the Colonials, one whose roster spot Schramm said will not be easy to fill.
The loss of Clauss’ leadership skills will be felt just as deeply, the head coach said. If it were possible, Schramm added, she would keep the senior on GW’s roster for much longer.
“That’s going to be tough for her to leave,” Schramm said. "There will be a big question mark as far as who's going to replace her."