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STORRS, Conn. - Growing up watching UConn basketball games, freshman pitcher Katie Koshes has been familiar with the University of Connecticut all her life. In just one week, she embarks on her collegiate career.
Not even one year removed from Amity Regional High School, Koshes (Orange, Conn.) prepares to officially start logging innings in the pitching circle for the UConn softball team.
Koshes is unique in more ways than one - including the fact that she is the only Connecticut native on the 18-player roster for the Huskies. When it came to choosing her school, the in-state pitching star made up her mind quickly.
"When I started looking, UConn was my top school because I know so many people who go here and love it," said Koshes. "When I started talking to the coaches, I realized they were a good fit for me. I definitely wanted to commit and play for my state school."
The only left-handed pitcher on UConn's staff, Koshes made an instant impact in the fall, getting some collegiate playing experience before winter workouts began.
"It set the tone," said Koshes of the fall season, when UConn played eight games. "The games are played at a fast pace and it definitely helped so I know what to expect in the spring."
Like many freshmen, the transition from high school to college sports was challenging, and not necessarily from a physical standpoint. As Koshes has learned already, the game is heavy on the mental-focus aspect.
"The first game I was very nervous, but we're playing the same game...you just have to calm down and remind yourself that you are just playing softball," said the lefty hurler.
Koshes is also unique as a (very successful) two-sport athlete in high school. She earned four letters as a member of the volleyball team, which she also captained in her final season.
It's her versatility, as much as her dedicated attitude, which has led her to a strong start at UConn in the preseason. Starting next Friday, Koshes will wear a UConn uniform in a regular season game for the first time.
"It's a different feeling because you're playing for a whole university. It's people from all different areas coming to play with you; it's a cool experience," said the UConn freshman.
During her time at Amity, Koshes led the softball team to a 2015 Southern Connecticut Conference Championship. She was a three-time All-Conference and a two-time First Team All-State player.
In her first three high school seasons, Koshes went 40-6 with a 0.54 ERA in the circle. She struck-out 520 batters in 342 innings - 1.5 strikeouts per frame.
Despite recent success, she realizes an elevation of her game is necessary to compete at UConn - especially with four other talented pitchers on staff.
"A lot of times in high school, I relied on my spin. In college, though, making every pitch deceptive and strong is definitely important and I worked on it all winter," said Koshes.
She has already won the support of the upperclassmen, including senior pitcher Kayla Doty, for her strides in the fall and mental approach in the circle.
"From what I saw in the fall, Katie is a very calm player. Nothing really bothers her," said Doty. "She speaks for herself on the mound. She can really spin (the ball) and makes it hard for hitters to make solid contact. I'm excited to watch her play."
Assuming Koshes makes her collegiate debut next weekend, it will begin her career as a Husky. In that moment, she will get an opportunity to live her dream of playing at UConn.
The Huskies travel to Fort Myers, Fla. to play in the FGCU Softball Tournament from Feb. 10-12, with the season-opener on Friday at 2 p.m. against LIU Brooklyn.