Mines softball got off to a bit of a rocky start this season. The Orediggers lost their first seven games, facing nationally ranked opponents in Tarleton State and Texas A&M-Commerce. Going into the season, junior shortstop Clara Larson was the player to watch. After a breakout sophomore year, in which she hit for an average of .425 with 15 home runs, earning First-Team All-America Honors, Larson took home an RMAC Preseason Player of the Year designation and was placed on the NFCA national player of the year watch list. Larson has started the season strong, batting .318 with a team-high 10 RBIs thus far.
“I just think we had a lot to figure out, as far as coming together as a team initially,” said Larson. “Traveling to Texas was obviously pretty hard on us.” For those who don’t know, a bus ride from Golden to Conroe, Texas (where the Orediggers opened their season) takes 15 hours. “I think we just needed to kinda get over the initial hump of figuring out how we gel together,” said Larson, “and how we’re going to do things this year as a collective unit.”
Once Mines got back to the state of Colorado, they have won five of six games, including a 4-1 conference record. Even though they have a ‘home record’ of 3-0, the Orediggers have yet to play in Golden due to ongoing field construction. “I think it’s definitely been good for us, as far as getting used to winning and competing at a high level under adversity,” said Larson. “I think that once we get our field back, we’re going to be that much more determined to make the most of the rest of our season.”
Hometown: Castle Rock, CO
Major: Electrical Engineering
Why did you choose Mines?
“Mines was just the best combination of all of the things that I wanted,” said Larson. “I really wanted a good education, I’m really interested in engineering, and I really wanted to compete in softball at a high level.” Location was a big factor as well. “Mines is also close to home,” said Larson.
“My parents are pretty close and they’re really happy about that for sure.” The view from the softball field is also pretty hard to beat. “Colorado is just so beautiful, it’s hard to fathom leaving,” said Larson.
What is your favorite part of softball?
Larson was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing basketball and tennis in additional to softball. “Softball is such a mental game,” said Larson, acknowledging the mental aspect of tennis as well. “I really like the team aspect of softball,” said Larson. “You’re not just out on a court on your own; you have other people behind you to pick you up if you’re having a bad day.” That’s the best part about team-oriented sports. “It just makes it a lot more fun to have your teammates around you,” said Larson.
What is your role on the team?
After proving herself as a top-tier player last year, Larson has become more of a leader on the team. “I definitely aim to be kind of a rock on the team,” said Larson. “Now I aim to kind of be a person on the team that people can look to in confidence if we’re struggling.” More than that, Larson wants to be the best teammate she can be. “I’d really like to be someone that my teammates can look to and feel confident that they can get over whatever’s troubling them or that the team is going to be able to push through,” said Larson.
Do you have pre-competition traditions?
“We do have our pre-game rituals, which I think helps ease a lot of people’s nerves as we’re going into the game,” said Larson. “We’ll sing the fight song, which is always really fun.” The routine is less superstitious than it is preparation. “We have all sorts of little things that make people feel ready to play, ready to go,” said Larson.
Do you have any stand out role models?
“My older brother is probably my biggest role model,” said Larson. He played football and wrestled for the Air Force Academy, and became a C130 pilot. “I don’t know how he did it,” said Larson. “He’s just been a super huge role model in my life, and it’s been awesome for me to try to strive to be more like him.”
Do you have any hobbies outside softball?
“I really like music,” said Larson, admitting that she doesn’t usually have much free time. In addition to lettering in three sports in high school, she also played alto saxophone. “I’ve been trying to learn the ukulele recently,” said Larson, adding that playing music is a great way to relieve stress.
What’s unique about Mines athletics?
“You’re really good at time management,” said Larson, with a smile on her face. “It’s cool because at other schools, if you want to be an engineer and also an athlete, probably most of the other athletes aren’t going to be in quite as strenuous of a degree,” said Larson. “So it’s nice to have teammates who are also bogged down with homework on some nights…always super busy with school, rather than going somewhere where you’re the only person on the team that has a ton of academics to do.” There aren’t many NCAA programs with a similar academic load as Mines. “I think that’s a really cool about being an athlete here,” said Larson.
What can we expect from the rest of the season?
“We’re just gonna keep going up,” said Larson, “especially with the way we’ve been hitting.” In Mines’ last game against New Mexico Highlands on March 1st, the Orediggers tallied 16 runs on 16 hits, ending the game via ‘mercy rule’ after five innings. “[I] think we got over whatever was in the way in the beginning of the season, and now we’re just going to keep climbing, keep getting better, and keep winning games,” said Larson.
Mines went on to split a four-game series against nationally ranked Colorado Mesa. The Orediggers are scheduled to play their first series at home, pending construction delays, against Dixie State starting March 23rd. Be sure to head over to the Mines softball field to support Mines softball.