For softball star teammates are the key to her success

Written By Michael Richter

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When asked to grade her play for the 2015 season, Point Park softball starting basewoman Karen Mao – who currently leads the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) in RBIs with 40 – modestly refused to answer. She didn’t feel comfortable evaluating herself – she viewed it as biased.

Mao attributed her impressive RBI total to her teammates; she didn’t praise herself.

“Becca Babincak, Taylor Geary and Gabi Vogt all bat in front of me, and they put me in the position to get those RBIs,” said Mao.

Mao viewed her March 16 KIAC Player of the Week Award as deserving praise for her team, not herself.

“I’m glad our team is receiving recognition this year,” Mao said.

Mao, a senior, is in her final season as a Pioneer. She currently boasts a .374 batting average and a .981 fielding percentage for 20-12 Point Park.

“Karen is an all-around great player,” said Point Park Softball head coach Michelle Coultas. “Defensively, she has a great glove. Offensively, she is disciplined at the plate. Having her on the field is really important to the team’s success.”

Last year, an Anaheim native, Mao arrived at Point Park after leaving Clarendon College. Although she had a great first season on the field at Point Park: she batted .375 and recorded 31 RBIs, she didn’t develop many strong relationships with her teammates.

“There were a lot of cliques in the team last year,” Mao said. “There were a lot of girls who wouldn’t talk to each other. It was a judgmental atmosphere.”

However, the softball team works in unison this season and gets along well. The team vocally cheers from the dugout for their teammates at the plate. Furthermore, the players are more comfortable making jokes with each other.

“It’s a more welcoming environment,” Mao said of this year’s Pioneer team.

During at-bats, Mao has a clear mind. She “keeps it simple.”

“When I’m batting, I think, ‘See the ball, hit the ball,’” Mao said.

Mao currently possesses a .533 slugging percentage and three home runs in the 2015 season.

“Her bat needs to be in the lineup,” Pioneers center fielder Alyssa McMurtrie said regarding Mao.

Point Park coaches and teammates view Mao’s performance as integral to the team’s success. The Pioneers are 2-6 in games in which Mao failed to achieve a single hit.

“Without Karen, we wouldn’t be a true team,” McMurtrie said.

Mao is also the Community Service Coordinator for Point Park’s Campus Activities Board (CAB). Her friends are amazed that she is able to juggle softball, CAB and her schoolwork.

“My friends say to me, ‘Karen, I don’t know how you’re doing all of that,’” Mao said. “That motivates me.”

Mao does not care about individual awards, but she hopes that her team can reach the 2015 NAIA Softball World Series. She has already told her mom to postpone her flight home after the completion of the spring semester in preparation for the event.

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