Madison Kluever hasn’t even stepped foot in her first high school class yet, but she’ll be on the big stage Tuesday morning for the Northeast softball team in Fort Dodge.
Kluever, who just finished eighth grade in Goose Lake, has been the go-to for the Rebels in the pitcher’s circle all year long. She’s accumulated 18 wins in that time, a feat that only other pitcher in all of Class 2A has accomplished in the shortened season.
But it was intimidating coming into a team with a number of seasoned veterans, many who have been playing varsity for the Rebels for three or four years. At least, it was intiimidating at first.
“I was nervous that I was going to be the one who didn’t know what was going on really,” Kluever said.
But then you ask the other question – when did Kluever feel comfortable with the rest of the Rebels?
“The first practice,” Kluever said with a big smile. “They accept everyone right away.
“I love it. The girls are so nice, they’re awesome.”
She’s definitely proven herself in her debut at varsity softball as well. The state-bound Rebels have just two losses this season, and Kluever pitched every game except the second half of double headers (two games).
She’s been pitching since she was just eight years old, so it’s almost second nature for her at this point.
“My mom played college softball and she wanted me to be a pitcher,” Kluever said. “I ended up wanting it, too.
“I like the hard work that comes into it. It teaches me a lot of things.”
One of those things the position has taught her is keeping her composure through tough situations. She’s needed that throughout the season and always come through.
It helps that she has the leadership of veteran catch Bree Mangelsen to help her out. Mangelsen, an All-State softball player, has been a cornerstone of the Rebel softball team since her time as an underclassman.
In fact, Mangelsen made it into Kluever’s game mantra:
“Stay calm, hit your spots, and do what Bree says.”
With the Rebels leading by just one run in the bottom of the seventh last week, she had a meeting Mangelsen. Mangelsen didn’t feel like she needed to encourage or instruct her exceptionally young teammate. Instead, she asked Kluever which pitch she wanted to throw.
Kluever threw her change-up and ended the game with a K.
“You can’t tell that she’s an eighth grader the way she’s carried herself all year,” Northeast head coach Travis Eversmeyer said. “She just eats that zone up and it’s great to see.”
Kluever has had 73 strikeouts this season, while only walking 16 batters through 119 innings pitched. Her defense has helped her immensely – the Rebels field one of the top infields in the state.
“Let them hit it, “ Kluever said. “I don’t try to strike everyone out because I have that great defense behind me. If I try to strike everybody out, then I can throw those balls.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Kluever said about her first season. “I’m so happy that I have an amazing defense to back me up. It makes it a lot easier.”
The fun continues for Northeast and for Kluever at the state tournament, where she will go head-to-head with some of the best in the state.
The No. 4 Rebels kick off the Class 2A state tournament on Tuesday morning, first pitch coming at 11:30 a.m. against Central Springs. Central Springs also features a young pitcher – freshman Cooper Klaahsen, who has struck out 111 batters in her 80 innings of work.