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Canyon's Courtney Ziese: The stage is met

Despite being overshadowed at Canyon, talented Ziese moving on to Ga. Tech

Posted: May 14, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 14, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Canyon senior catcher Courtney Ziese competed in a Foothill League full of bigger programs in terms of notoriety, but her contributions could have helped set Canyon on the path to reaching that echelon.

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Canyon standout catcher Courtney Ziese is used to being in the background.

By her own admission, it’s an odd place for a girl with an NCAA Division I scholarship under her belt to be.

But in a league with the top-to-bottom talent of the Foothill, it’s an understandable place to be.

“I always feel like there’s something else that people are paying attention to,” she says. “I just think it goes back to the whole thing that Canyon is seen in the shadow of all the other schools.”

When asked who the top hitter in the league was entering league play, Ziese received just one vote from the league’s coaches in an anonymous survey.

But the Georgia Tech commit had 10 home runs, 32 RBIs and 33 hits this season, yet she’s often overshadowed by bigger names from schools with richer softball pedigrees.

“Everybody’s always talking about other players because their teams are winning,” says Canyon head coach Dwain Whalen. “(Former Canyon player and current Oklahoma Sooner Brittany Williams) never got recognized because Canyon wasn’t winning. Ziese is the same way. Everyone’s talking about (West Ranch catcher Janelle) Lindvall. (Hart’s Tracy Chandless) is probably one of the best hitters in the league. But be careful with Courtney.”

She was an All-Santa Clarita Valley second-team selection as a freshman. In her sophomore season, Ziese was one of 40 athletes invited in December 2010 to try out for the USA Softball Junior National Team. And she signed her National Letter of Intent in November.

“I definitely feel like we have to work to get recognized out here,” she says. “Especially more than any other team, because no one really expects anything out of us. We’re coming out of the blue to show people what we can do.”

Things, though, are about to change for the senior, who will spend the summer preparing to head off to Georgia Tech University.

“Of course (I’m nervous), the girls are going to be more experienced (in college), so I have to go in and try to learn things they already know,” Ziese says.

She also received interest from schools such as Cal State Fullarton, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the University of South Carolina.

“When I started looking, I was looking to go out of California,” she says of how she made her decision. “I wanted the whole experience of going off to college.”

So it came down to South Carolina and Georgia Tech, and while she liked both schools, she says the Yellow Jackets just seemed like the perfect fit.

And with her high school career ending with a 10-4 loss on Thursday to Hart in the regular season finale, it’s finally time for her to start thinking about the future.

“In the beginning, I think it is going to be stressful because of the transition,” she says. “But once I get used to it, it will become fun. Of course I’ll be looking forward to leaving, but I want to enjoy my last few months of travel ball and play out here in California for my dad to watch me all the time.”

Getting to this point wasn’t so straightforward, though.

The senior was spectacular as a freshman for Canyon, finishing second in the league with a .462 batting average and third with a .667 slugging percentage and a .533 on-base percentage while hitting 18 RBIs. She also scored 24 runs, hit three home runs and stole six bases.

But things got rocky her sophomore year.

Wanting to take a class offered at Valencia High, she transferred to the school and looked to play softball for the Vikings before her transfer was deemed illegal and her eligibility was revoked.

“In a sense, I do (regret what happened with Valencia),” she says. “But everything happens for a reason and without it, I wouldn’t be here today.”

She decided to transfer back to Canyon for her junior season and became a rock behind the plate for the Cowboys — not allowing a passed ball in her two years at catcher.

And despite the rocky nature of part of her high school career, her senior year took on a different theme.

No longer stressed about the prospect of where she was going to play in college, Ziese says the game became as fun as it had always been in the stress-free days before high school.

“Before I got my scholarship, I was definitely stressed out and feeling pressure because that’s when girls are starting to commit and stuff,” Ziese says. “So I wanted to be like them. But once I got my school, I learned to relax and learned to have more fun with it.”

With that weight off her shoulders, things were noticeably different this season.

“I feel like every year playing high school I’ve improved and got to know the game even better, and I’ve learned to have fun with it,” she says. “My senior year was the most fun. The chemistry we had and some of the talent we had on the team ... in the earlier years we didn’t have that strong of a bond, and this year we got along.”

And while she won’t be around to see it, Whalen is confident the Cowboys will continue to build off of the foundation Ziese and her fellow seniors built this season.

The Cowboys achieved big wins in 2012 over Foothill League runner-up Saugus and league champion West Ranch, among others, before a three-game losing streak to end the season put them just out of the playoff picture.

But with the year now over, Ziese is ready to jump at her next opportunity.

She’ll compete with her travel ball team through the summer before leaving for her freshman collegiate season, where she’ll finally get a chance to play on the biggest of stages.



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