Monday, October 10, 2016

Kelsea Roth Steps Into Justin's World

Sometimes - often times - the quiet stars are those that make the biggest impact on their team. Such is the case for Missouri's Kelsea Roth, a member of the class of 2015, whose under-the-radar contributions made her one of the biggest x-factors to her squad's continued postseason appearances during her career.

Roth was one of the players that hung with Ehren Earleywine's Tigers during the school's move from the Big 12 Conference to the SEC, and despite the change in level of competition, it didn't take the California-native much adjusting; in the SEC Tournament to kick off the 2013 postseason, she homered in each of her squad's games, earning inclusion on the all-tournament team and taking deep Ivy Renfroe and Lauren Haeger, among others, at the conference’s highest stage.

In her senior campaign, Roth set an unheralded but important program mark, breaking the previous record for career putouts with nearly 1,300-strong in her career to that point.

Now filling the role of “the older sister” to younger sibling Maddie, a super-utility player at Utah, Kelsea and I talked about a whole host of topics, including
  • Playing for Ehren Earleywine
  • Why work ethic is so important
  • Whether you’ll be seeing her in a coaching visor in the dugout any time soon
  • and much more!

Justin’s World: How did you get started playing softball?
Kelsea Roth: My parents met playing softball and loved the sport, so when I was old enough to play, they signed me up. As soon as I started, I could not stop!

Justin’s World: What brought you to CoMo as your place to go to school & play ball?
Kelsea Roth: At first, I thought I was going to play at UCF because I was a pitcher, but after an injury, I had a hard time getting back and the coach that recruited me had left. Once I knew this, I started solely focusing on hitting and that’s when Coach Earleywine found me. As soon as I took my visit [to Missouri] and stepped on campus, I was sold. The school had an amazing atmosphere and the entire community revolved around the sports programs. As for playing, I knew how successful the program was but more importantly, I wanted to play for a competitive coach. There was no doubt that Mizzou was the place I wanted to go. 

Justin’s World: Tell me about playing for Coach Earleywine.
Kelsea Roth: As I said before, Coach E is a very competitive coach. He has so much knowledge of the game and he wants to win. I wanted to learn and I wanted to win, so he was a perfect fit. I am the type of player that does not need a lot of praise, and Coach E’s main form of praise is playing time, so it worked itself out. I really enjoyed playing for him; he taught me a lot and pushed me to be the best I could be. He had a lot of faith in me, which is something you need as a player, and I’m very grateful for that.

Justin’s World: From a player’s point of view, take me through your thoughts during the Tigers’ move from the Big 12 to the SEC. What were some of the biggest changes you had to make on the field from one conference to the other?
Kelsea Roth: Honestly, it wasn’t too much of a change. Since I’m from California, I didn’t really know the rivalry. Our mentality essentially didn’t change. We wanted to compete to the best of our abilities, no matter the opponent. One of the harder parts of the move, though, was the amount of traveling. Everything in the Big 12 was fairly close, but the SEC is quite a distance for us. As for on the field, we didn’t have as much information on the teams in the SEC as we did in the Big 12, so my sophomore year was the trial period. That being said, we came in knowing we would have to prove ourselves and that is exactly what we did. We all stepped our game up, studied the other teams better, and worked to be the best. We were a very competitive team, so we knew we could go in there and make a statement.

Justin’s World: Your sister also plays D1 ball – backyard pickup games must have been fun when you were youngsters! Were y’all more the competitive types, or always supportive of one another as you climbed the game’s ranks?
Kelsea Roth: My sister and I are complete opposites. We tried playing together one year, but it was short-lived. The older we got, the more supportive we got; but at first, we were very competitive. We are four years apart ,so there was a slight gap regarding development levels. She is the carefree type, and I am extremely competitive, so backyard games contained a lot of bickering and barely any playing. When she entered high school, though, she really developed and backyard games got really intense. We always support each other in whatever we do, and I am really looking forward to watching her excel at Utah!

Justin’s World: As a Tiger legend, in ten or twenty years, when folks hear your name, what do you hope they think of as the legacy that you’ve left on the game?
Kelsea Roth: I wouldn’t say legend! Personally, I think the biggest thing for players is their work ethic. I have always worked as hard as I can, and that’s what got me to Mizzou. If I were to leave a legacy, I would want it to be my work ethic. I want others to realize that they can do anything they want in life if they put the work in, because nothing is handed to you. I would also want to be remembered as a competitor. No matter the circumstance, I never gave up, and that is a trait that I think all softball players should have. This goes for everything in life, not just softball. If you work as hard as you can and never give up, doors will open up for you.

Photo: Kevin Burns
Justin’s World: Is entering the coaching world something you have considered or might go into at some point?
Kelsea Roth: Coach E and I had a conversation at the beginning of my sophomore year about that and I told him that he would never see me coach. Then during my fifth year, I started helping out a travel team and we went to the Mizzou camp and Coach E saw me and just started laughing. He remembered everything I said about never wanting to coach and had to call me out on it. The older I get and the further away from softball I get, the more I want to coach. So moving forward, I am definitely considering coaching.

Justin’s World: What is the proudest moment of your career?
Kelsea Roth: That’s a tough one. I would have to say my last game of collegiate softball. I was surrounded by literally all of my family at UCLA and I hit back-to-back homeruns to end my career. It may not have felt like it at the time, (because I didn’t want it to be over) but looking back at it now, it’s an amazing feeling. I was able to share my last moments of college softball with my friends and family and you can’t beat that.

Justin’s World: To what do you attribute your remarkable consistency on defense and at the plate throughout your whole career?
Kelsea Roth: Well, on defense, I would attribute that success to my travel ball coaches Gary and Dean Fausett. I started with them and the [SoCal] Choppers my freshman year of high school and played with them up ’till college. There wasn’t a single practice or game where I didn’t learn something new, and they really prepared me for college. Then when I got to college, Coach E polished me off. For offense, I would give credit to all of my coaches. My travel coaches and high school coaches definitely helped, but before college, my hitting coach Mike Stith really transformed my swing. Then when I got to Missouri, Coach E, Coach Pete [D’Amour], and Coach [Phil] Bradley worked tirelessly with me on finding my best swing. I cannot tell you how many times I would come in early and stay after with them just to find the perfect swing. Without all of my coaches, I wouldn’t have had as much success, so I attribute all of my consistency to them.

Justin’s World: Let’s set a scene here – say you were stranded on a deserted island, but could take three things with you. No boats, no phones allowed, but anything else tangible goes. What would you take?
Kelsea Roth: For starters, I would take my dog Bentley. I got him as soon as I was done with softball and I take him everywhere with me. Then I would take either a lighter or matches to start a fire. Finally, I would bring some form of a safety kit. I know how clumsy I can be, so I would need something to save me if I were to get hurt.

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