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Katie Stewart wants to ‘stay consistent’ with Texas softball
Katie Stewart will take her softball talents to Texas following a tremendous high school career at Lincoln-Way East. (Courtesy: @KatieStew2242/Twitter)

Katie Stewart wants to ‘stay consistent’ with Texas softball

FRANKFORT, Ill. (BVM) – Since she was little, Katie Stewart was destined to become a softball star. Growing up, the versatile catcher and infielder idolized softball standouts like Sierra and Sydney Romero, and more recently, Jocelyn Alo.

However, perhaps the biggest influences to Stewart’s softball stardom have been her sisters, Sam and Danielle. 

About a decade ago, Sam starred at Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort, Illinois. She would go on to catch for Valparaiso University, teaching her younger sisters the ins and outs of the sport at the same time.

“She was the one I grew up around,” Katie said. “Catching specifically, I took a lot of things from her game and implemented them into my own.

“Sam was always kind of like the standard, because she was the oldest and she set the tone for what we could achieve. Always being around her and learning from her has been a great experience to have.”

Katie Stewart Texas Longhorns softball Lincoln-Way East High School Frankfort Illinois
Katie Stewart will follow in the footsteps of her sisters, Sam and Danielle, by playing college softball at Texas. (Courtesy: @katie.stewart42/Instagram)

While Sam is several years older, Katie and Danielle are just one year apart, allowing them to form a special bond as they have played together throughout the majority of their softball careers.

“I’ve always been really close with both of them, specifically Danielle because we are so close in age,” Katie said. “We always kind of played on the same team. We have each others’ backs and we can pick each other up when we’re down, and push each other harder when we aren’t feeling at our best.”

This season, Danielle has gone on to follow Sam’s footsteps at the collegiate level, taking the circle for Northern Illinois University.

“It’s pretty cool,” Katie said. “I get to kind of see the college experience from her eyes and I can kind of figure it out from her … Seeing how she handles the difference in pace of college versus high school softball, it’s really helpful.”

Soon, Katie will become the third Stewart sister to play college softball, and the first to play for a Power 5 school. 

Katie’s recruiting process began when she was just 14 years old as schools like Northwestern and Michigan began taking interest in her. Within a couple of years, the Lincoln-Way East senior had interest from numerous high-level programs, creating a bit of a stressful, but ultimately beneficial, experience. 

“It kind of got stressful with all of the coaches around because I felt the need to perform to their standards in order to constantly get recruited by them,” Katie said. “But overall, I feel like that was pretty good experience because being under that pressure is going to be pretty normal when I get to college … That was pretty valuable experience to learn from that.”

When it came down to commitment time, Katie was still interested in some of the initial schools that recruited her like Northwestern and Michigan, and was also drawn to playing for some of college softball’s most successful programs like North Carolina, Kentucky and Stanford. However, in the end, there was one school that stood above the rest: Texas.

After going to her first camp in Austin in 2021, Katie knew there was something special about both the school and its softball program. As she continued to make visits, she soon realized it was the place for her.

“I felt like the campus was really pretty,” Katie said. “The softball field was incredible to look at and to stand on … During the visits, I just felt really at home on campus. Being in Austin, it felt right, it felt like my kind of place. Ultimately, their culture and how I felt being on campus led me to choose them.”

Last season, the Longhorns finished 47-22-1 as they finished runner-up to rival Oklahoma in the Women’s College World Series. This season, the team has already reached the 40-win mark once again as the Longhorns soon head into Big 12 Tournament play.

“It’s really an honor to be going there,” Katie said. “To see how much they’re succeeding and to know that I’m going into that program, it’s really cool to know and it’s really humbling.”

It’s a program that only the best of the best play for, and Katie is just that. Currently, she is ranked as one of the top players in her class by both Perfect Game Softball and Extra Inning Softball, something that can add some slight pressure, but is also very rewarding. 

“It can be a little bit of a burden to remember how high of a rank you have,” Katie said. “But I feel like overall, it pushes me to be better and hold up to that standard. It’s a big honor to be recognized.”

Over the past decade or so of her life, Katie has put in the work to earn the distinction as one of the best players in the 2023 class. She began her softball career playing tee-ball locally, but quickly moved into travel softball, often playing up a year alongside Danielle. 

Last year, Katie had the chance to test her game out against some of the best competition the nation has to offer playing with Extreme Elite 18U National, and hit an impressive .473 with 15 home runs and 44 RBIs during the summer. She has also had the opportunity to shine over the past few years on the travel softball circuit with Lady Dukes Lamar. 

“It’s been really cool playing with all these girls that are from around the country,” Katie said. “They’re all going big school, Power 5. They’re really good. Being able to play alongside them and push myself to the limit of my skill is just a really cool experience.”

Of course, the power hitter has also gained invaluable experience during her high school career at Lincoln-Way East. However, it began with a lot of uncertainty. 

Eager to get on the field she had seen both her sisters star on for many years, Katie’s freshman softball season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was pretty excited because it was the first year of playing high school softball with my sister,” Katie said. “I saw her playing and my older sister playing at East for many years, so I was really excited for that environment.”

Instead, the softball standout was relegated to hitting off a tee in her basement that spring, and practicing across the street with her sister and her dad.

Katie Stewart Texas Longhorns softball Lincoln-Way East High School Frankfort Illinois
Katie Stewart has proven to have a powerful bat the last few years at Lincoln-Way East which she will bring with her to Austin, Texas. (Courtesy: @katie.stewart42/Instagram)

By 2021, Katie finally got her chance to shine for the Griffins. Although it took her a couple of games to adjust, she adapted quickly, putting together plenty of momentum that carried into 2022. In her junior year, Katie put up gaudy numbers, batting .500 with 46 hits, 15 home runs, 41 RBIs and 10 steals.

The Griffins’ season would end earlier than they wanted after losing in super sectionals. However, that has only motivated Katie and her team, as the senior leader has Lincoln-Way East playing some of its best softball late in the season this time around.

“Coming into this season, after the last two years of experience, I was feeling pretty confident,” Katie said. “We’ve had our ups and downs with sticking together and backing up our pitcher, both hitting and defense, but overall, I feel like we’re playing really well considering how young our team is.”

So far this season, Katie has put up similar numbers to last year, batting around .480 with yet another double-digit home run year. No matter where the season goes from here, she’s determined to give it her all in order to take the Griffins as far as they can go. 

“Just closing out this season, playing as best as I can, taking us as far as we can go, I feel like that would be a pretty good goal for myself,” Katie said. “If we could make state, that would be a dream come true.”

Katie Stewart Texas Longhorns softball Class of 2023 Lincoln-Way East High School Frankfort Illinois
Katie Stewart is part of a talented 2023 class that will look to continue the recent success of Texas softball. (Courtesy: @KatieStew2242/Twitter)

While her time with her current Lincoln-Way East teammates is coming to an end, Katie will soon reunite with one of her former teammates in Austin. Since they were in middle school, Katie and current Longhorns freshman Maddie Pomykalski have been close friends. After playing two years together with the Griffins, Katie is looking forward to the chance to soon do so again.  

“She kind of took me under her wing,” Katie said. “We’ve always been really close … I think it’s really going to be helpful to have a hometown friend to play with in college.”

With a couple of Illinois’ best, along with an abundance of other talent, the future remains bright for the Longhorns. For Katie, it’s all about putting a consistent product on the field during her four years playing in college. And hopefully, that will lead to her ultimate goal of a championship.

“Stay consistent through all four years,” Katie said about her goals at Texas. “Perform as well as I can. To make All-American would be really cool if I get there. And obviously, we want a world series.”

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