Red Deer’s Kelsey Lalor played NCAA softball this season with the Boise State Broncos. (Advocate File Photo)

Kelsey Lalor shines in abbreviated first season of NCAA softball

Kelsey Lalor pivoted this year in a way that most athletes can only imagine.

The Red Deer product played university basketball with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies for the past three years, while also staring as a member of Team Canada’s women’s baseball squad in the offseason.

This year, she decided to drop all that and play NCAA Division I softball for the Boise State University Broncos in Idaho.

Lalor’s first season with the Broncos was in full swing earlier this month when the sports world came crashing down. The NBA cancelled a game on March 11 and then a season and by Friday, when Boise State was preparing to play their home opener, their season was also shuttered.

In the weeks that followed, cancellation after cancellation came down and eventually, the entire NCAA season was shutdown.

Lalor said the shockwave has been felt at all levels of sport, from high school to the Canadian university and college ranks, as well as her older Boise State teammates, everyone is having a tough team dealing with their seasons being dashed.

“It was a shock at first, even though we knew it was coming. The NBA had cancelled everything, it’s always hard to hear the news and you’re not really ready for it. We really weren’t ready for our season to come to an end that soon. I feel for a lot of my teammates, a lot of the seniors, it’s really tough for them,” said Lalor, who returned to Red Deer Thursday and is finishing the rest of her classes for the semester online.

“At the end of the day, this is a lot bigger than sport and it’s just really important that everyone is staying safe and we’re doing enough to keep everybody healthy.”

While the future hangs in the balance, her freshman year was something special and one she’ll remember for a long time.

Until the cancellation, Lalor was having a remarkable rookie campaign through 25 games of non-conference play.

She hit for a stellar 0.302 average and 0.556 slugging percentage. She also led the Broncos in home runs with four, through 63 at-bats. In her first season of softball.

“It’s exciting, (home runs) is a big part of the game of softball and it’s always a question. You’re never safe, anyone can hit one at any time,” said Lalor, who had 19 hits on the year, including four doubles.

“That’s what I do when I’m there in the middle of the lineup, they want me to hit for power so it’s really nice when I show that I can do that.”

In the field, Lalor is playing right field, a position she’s comfortable with from her baseball days and hasn’t been too much of an adjustment. At the plate, while her swing hasn’t changed a lot from baseball, it’s the approach and pitch recognition that have had to happen fast.

“Just knowing where the ball is going, instead of where it is, pitch recognition. Just timing, other than that it’s pretty much the same,” she said.

There were a lot of adjustments Lalor needed to make on the field, but simply getting used to the rigours of NCAA life was tough, too. Through her first five months in Idaho, it was mostly practice, with a few scrimmages and exhibition games in the fall. The non-conference schedule kicked off in February and it had been non-stop since then.

“There was a lot of learning that happened, but it was a blast. We played Texas and Arizona, both were ranked in the top five and we played a couple of other top-ranked teams,” she said.

“It was really good. You go from practicing every day for five months and then you finally get to play and put it all together. It was awesome. definitely a change, but an awesome experience.”

Lalor added that she’s ready to put in the work this summer and can’t wait for her second season with the Broncos.

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