While many freshman softball players have to sit on the bench for a year or two before earning a spot on most high school rosters, 15-year-old Natalie Klotz has managed to bypass the entire process, and has quickly emerged as a leader at the Springside School in Chestnut Hill.
The squad's only freshman, she has pitched virtually every inning of the team's 11 games thus far, throwing a fastball clocked at 50 m.p.h., as well as a change-up, while also mixing in a curveball, screwball and sinker when necessary.
The Lafayette Hill resident showed so much promise that she even played last year, while still in eighth grade.
Her best game so far came against the Academy of Notre Dame, which had only lost one contest during the entire season. They've routinely scored in double digits, but Klotz didn't allow a single run, and struck out five batters.
"We shut them down," said Klotz with a smile.
After the game, her teammates even put the young pitcher on their shoulders and carried her off the field. (Notre Dame won the rematch with Springside a few days later.)
Along with her hard work on the diamond, she also pushes herself in Jewish learning. With softball commitments conflicting with her confirmation classes at Or Hadash: A Reconstructionist Congregation in Fort Washington, Klotz now accompanies her father to Torah study there on Saturday mornings.
"I actually enjoy it as much as class -- if not more," said Klotz, who plans to return where she left off in her studies and get confirmed after the season."There's nobody my age, but the discussions at Torah study are way above what I would have been having at my class."
Although the team has a 5-6 record, coach Stephanie Mill seemed excited about the season's final six games, especially with Klotz showing continued improvement.
"She's a leader out there on the mound. I think the team has confidence in her," she said.
"Natalie definitely has the right mentality for a pitcher, to stand in there and say, 'I want to strike you out.' She's not afraid to be in there, and she does it with a smile on her face, too -- a little smirk."