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Former Comet ace Sami Heyer adjusting to abrupt end of college season

Former Comet ace Sami Heyer adjusting to abrupt end of college season
Press photo by John Burbridge
Sami Heyer delivers a pitch in the Class 4A third-place game against West Delaware during last summer’s State Softball Championships while helping Charles City win 6-5.

By John Burbridge

During her freshman year at the University of Northern Iowa, former Charles City all-state softball pitcher Sami Heyer has learned the importance of “flattening the curve”.

It’s not a pitching technique to get more batters out. It’s a means to get the whole world out of a jam.

“There are people out there who still think we’re over-reacting, but we’ll probably never find that out for sure,” Heyer said of the mass shutdown of social interaction, notably in the realm of athletics, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, “but the professors I have here stress that we must ‘flatten the curve’, and it’s going to take some sacrifices to do that.”

In layman’s terms, “flattening the curve” involves community isolation measures in efforts to keep the daily number of disease cases at a manageable level for medical providers.

With the intention of becoming a medical provider herself while following her mother into the profession, Heyer is majoring in biology at UNI.

And, as alluded to earlier, she also pitches for the Panthers.

On March 8 against Utah Valley in the final round of the Northern Colorado Tournament in Greeley, Heyer had her best outing of the season with a complete-game 4-1 victory.

It was Heyer’s staff-leading fourth win. It also proved to be the last game of the season as the Missouri Valley Conference, in concurrence with all other collegiate athletic conferences and bodies, canceled all spring sports as well as most winter sports postseasons due to the outbreak.

“It was heartbreaking,” Heyer said of when she learned of the decision. “You work so hard for something and then it gets taken away from you.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to play softball here. I hope to continue to play. Just can’t take things for granted.”

With UNI not resuming classes until a week or two into April at the earliest, Heyer’s team is not allowed to practice or hold organized training sessions together in the interim. Players are not even allowed to use the university’s facilities to train on their own.

Of course that’s not going to halt Heyer’s work ethic as she regularly throws and trains to stay in game shape — even during the offseason.

“I’m at home now, and we have some training equipment,” Heyer said, “but it’s nothing like we have at the gym (at UNI).”

Last season, Heyer led the state in pitching wins (35). Even in a parallel “less bizarre” universe, Heyer would have likely fell well short of 35 wins her freshman season with the Panthers.

“Unlike in high school, I don’t pitch most every game in college,” Heyer said. “The hitters are much better. They know how to make adjustments the more they see you. As part of strategy to keep them off, you throw different pitchers at them.”

Heyer, who has always had a remarkably stingy strikeout-to-walk ratio with the Comets, has come to realize the importance of even greater control mastery in college — especially at the Division I level.

“You just miss a little on the plate, and they’ll make you pay,” Heyer said. “You don’t get away with mistakes in college.”

On the minds of many college athletes who’ve just had their seasons shuttered is … So am I going to get another year of eligibility?

“I heard that the seniors will get the opportunity to play again,” Heyer said, “but I don’t know about them adding another year of eligibility for the underclassmen. With a class of incoming freshmen already signed, you’ve got to make room for them and that makes things complicated.

“We’ll have to see what happens.”