Teammate has friend’s back

By Krystal Ward


Softball’s junior pitcher Keegan Hayes and sophomore outfielder Katie Lamich have a long history together, sparking a special connection between the two friends.

Hayes and Lamich grew up 10 minutes from each other in Naperville and played for the Naperville Diamonds Softball Association at eight and 11 years old, respectively.

They’ve attended school together since elementary school but didn’t become close friends until they played on the same varsity softball team for Naperville Central High School.

Hayes said she decided to attend NIU in October of her junior year of high school. She encouraged Lamich to get in contact with the coaching staff and to come out to the recruiting camps where highschoolers go to showcase their talent for interested universities.

She wanted Lamich to consider NIU because of the talent she has. The pitcher remembered being on the mound in high school and seeing Lamich making diving catches to save innings.

“She really had my back, and I realized she had the potential to play college ball,” Hayes said. “I wanted to get her connected.”

Head Coach Christina Sutcliffe said anytime athletes let her know of good talent, especially local, the coaching staff is going to make an effort to watch them play.

“[With] Katie, obviously, I was at their high school games watching Keegan,” Sutcliffe said. “So, when you’re watching Keegan, and Katie performs pretty well, she catches your eye pretty fast.”

Lamich said Hayes took her under her wing when she was a freshman in high school, and the same could be said for when Lamich decided to come to NIU.

The two went back to Naperville Central’s football field before Lamich’s freshman year as a Huskie to condition for the softball season. Lamich said she had a few nerves regarding the fitness test NIU recruits have to do, but having Hayes there with her calmed her down.

“I did what I had to do because she already went through it,” Lamich said.

Being from the same hometown has its benefit in the offseason. They had a month off over winter break but used Lamich’s local gym pass to workout together.

They’d text each other early in the morning to see what time they were going to the gym, while sometimes they would prefer to sleep in, they motivated each other to get out of bed.

Lamich and Hayes said they could workout with other friends, but they don’t know the system Hayes and Lamich are working with.

“Having a teammate there to push you and know kind of what [workouts] we’ve done [at NIU] and doing that at home is awesome,” Lamich said.

The sophomore said Hayes has been like a mentor, especially since the pitcher helped her adjust to college life in her freshman year and was there to answer any questions she had.

Though Lamich may not have as many direct questions for Hayes now, she said she still sees Hayes as a mentor because of the obstacles and injuries she’s seen her overcome and how well she does in the classroom.

Hayes said she doesn’t see herself as a mentor; she understands where Lamich is coming from and feels like she’s always been someone Lamich can go to with any questions she has.

When the team is on the road, Hayes said it’s comforting to have someone there to share high school stories with, and it’s almost like having a family member here.

“We kind of know each other better than anyone else does,” Hayes said. “I think that’s a special relationship within the team.”