By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
All-Empire in two sports, Ursyla Baumgarten is a softball standout first — and now recognized among the best California prep players.
The slugging sophomore from St. Vincent made the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Small Schools softball team despite playing out of position at catcher. The move helped the Mustangs capture a section title after finishing runner up her freshmen season.
Baumgarten was the lone state selection from the Empire, though she recognized how great the other softball nominees were from the region.
“It was a total surprise. It’s like a pretty big honor, because I’ve played with a lot of those girls,” Baumgarten said.
Few played like Baumgarten this past prep season. A standout on one of the Empire’s top travel softball squads, Baumgarten can play at any level, with college coaches beginning to take notice.
“She’s always been an amazing player,” said St. Vincent pitcher Hayley Olson. “She was the foundation for our team.”
Batting a remarkable .519, she also led St. Vincent in runs batted in — averaging more than one a game — hits and doubles. Baumgarten’s 15 extra base hits included a pair of home runs.
All-Empire honorable mention after a stellar freshman campaign, Baumgarten was dominant with the bat her second season.
“I try to push myself all the time. I love even little improvements,” she said.
Behind the plate, Baumgarten steadied a very young rotation. Sophomore Hayley Olson and freshman Hannah Sarlatte shared mound appearances. Baumgarten joined St. Vincent coaches in planning approaches to opponents’ lineups.
“She kept us into the game and calm,” Olson said.
No finer example of the impressive St. Vincent battery was the one-hit shutout Olson tossed in the North Coast Section Division 5 championship win.
That she was catching and not anchoring the infield suited Baumgarten.
“If that’s what the team needs, I’ll be there,” she said.
St. Vincent rolled through the small school playoffs after playing a rugged preseason schedule taking on larger schools. For Baumgarten, the competition was familiar.
Baumgarten is a middle infielder on the Easton Elite, a Petaluma-based summer softball team featuring some of the Empire’s top players. Playing in high level tournaments across the West, Baumgarten is challenged to improve.
Footwork in the field and preparing more as a hitter are areas she in which she wants to get better. If not for her love of softball Baumgarten could instead be playing summer league basketball.
A formidable post player for St. Vincent, she was the top rebounder — a dozen a game — and among the leading scorers on last year’s Mustangs. An All-League selection, Baumgarten helped St. Vincent go undefeated in league play and earn a three seed in the section playoffs.
“I love basketball too. I love the team aspect and working together,” Baumgarten said.
Yet the softball diamond is where Baumgarten is most at home.
“I see a future in softball for me. I feel I can succeed more,” she said.
The classroom is another source of success. Baumgarten has a straight-A grade average so far at St. Vincent.
Looking ahead to her junior year, Baumgarten is excited to chase a third straight section softball title with the Mustangs’ two other starting sophomores from last season’s championship team, Olson and Rainey Henry.
“That’s our goal,” Baumgarten said. “I think we can do it.”