Williams' Kristin Mapes drops out of school in order to play softball again
When the NCAA threw a lifeline to spring sport athletes, giving them an additional season of eligibility, underclassmen seemed poised to take advantage of an extra year.
But what of the seniors? What of the seniors at Division III schools like Williams College? For many, they had already begun planning their post-undergraduate life.
Williams softball player Kirstin Mapes dropped out of school — with the plan to return and play again.
"I was thinking either I want to go to grad school and play somewhere else for another year, or I could withdraw from Williams and come back and play next year at Williams," Mapes said. "I decided that if I'm going to play another year, I'm going to play with Williams softball.
"That was my only option."
The Corona, Calif., native has been part of a most successful run for Williams and coach Kris Herman. Mapes has been to three NCAA Division III tournaments, and made it to World Series appearances in 2017 and 2019.
"I've been calling myself a 2020-ish. I'm part of both classes at this point," she said, "especially when it comes to team bonding and class calls with coach. I'm doing both of those things. My position next year is, I'm trying not to take it all on my shoulders and I'm the one who has to bring back Williams softball as I've known it for the last four years. But the important part of Williams — our team culture that changes every year. But those special connection moments and that stuff that has stuck with Williams softball. Keeping those things alive and honoring them in that way."
Mapes and her teammates were coming off a 39-7 record in 2019. The Ephs beat Framingham State, St. John Fisher and Cortland State in an NCAA Regional, and then defeated Ithaca in a Super Regional. Williams went 1-2 at the World Series in Tyler, Texas, losing to Texas Lutheran and Trine, but beating St. Thomas. Williams finished 39-7 a year ago.
"It is part of [getting] the extra year of eligibility that athletes are getting," Mapes said. "When I made the decision [to drop out], we hadn't played any games. Technically I would have gotten eligibility anyway. I could have pulled a redshirt, which isn't too common in D-III games. Since we hadn't played any games it would have been fine. But when they gave a blanket waiver for all spring sport athletes, I would fall under that."
Last year, Mapes hit .304 with a team-leading seven home runs and 27 runs batted in. She also started 13 games as a pitcher, going 9-0 in 67 innings with a 2.19 earned-run average. She had a 4.91 strikeout-per-nine-inning mark.
In her career in the circle, the right-hander has made 22 starts in 30 games, recording a 14-1 record. She has a 2.57 ERA in 119 2/3 innings.
Mapes was an All-NESCAC, first-team selection in 2019, and was a second-team pick in 2018.
For her part, Mapes said that her recollections of those final 2020 days with her Eph teammates, are still fresh.
"We all made our way to our coaches' office. We literally sat in our coaches' office, like 16 of us, and we were all camped in that little office crying," she said. "Trying to figure out every contingency plan in. How could we get one game in with this team. We went down to Cole [Field] the next day. When we got down there, they had all the Senior Day stuff up. They had put our numbers on the field. They had our numbers up on the scoreboard. We took team pictures because we went down in uniform. We were all standing there in the dugout and [Herman] let us know there would not be any games. It was really, really tough. But something I appreciated from my coach and my teammates is that we were all together. We were literally holding on to each other when we got the news.
"We had someone to lean on. It was devastating."
Mapes would have been one of four Ephs, along with Riley Salvo, Rebecca Duncan and Emma Corbett, to wrap up their careers this season. Now, Mapes will be the 13th returning Williams player, joining four other juniors, four sophomores and four first-years.
"I was not going to make the decision without, for sure, talking to my coach and talking to my class and the class below me," Mapes said, in a phone interview with The Eagle from her California home. "I would be kind of leaving one class and placing myself in another class. I wanted to make sure my presence coming back wasn't going to affect that negatively. I got to talk to all of them, and they were super supportive. They realize that this is something I wanted.
"On my way home from Williams, I emailed the admissions office and went through the whole process when I got home."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at@howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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