COLUMBIA — When sophomore Valerie Teter takes the circle as a pitcher, the Columbia College softball team's opponents take notice.
If Teter goes to play at second base, shortstop, or third to start the game, teams take notice, too.
She is that dangerous.
An honorable mention All-American last season, Teter has picked up right where she left off this year. She has played four positions and as the Cougars' biggest pitching and hitting threat, she has guided the Cougars to an 12-7 record, along with a No. 23 national ranking in the NAIA.
In Columbia College's 3-0 victory against Eastern Connecticut State on Thursday, Teter struck out 17 in a complete-game effort that gave her the program's single-game record for strikeouts. The Cougars lost their second game Thursday at the NTC Spring Games in Orlando, Fla., falling 3-2 to Mount Mercy, but Teter's seventh-inning triple helped push the game into extra innings.
“Honestly, I don’t think we’d have much of a team left without her,” Cougars sophomore Stephanie Schultz said. “She’s our driving force.”
Last season, Teter shared the pitching load with Katie McMahon, who pitched in 29 games to Teter’s 27. Teter was named the American Midwest Conference Player of the Year, while McMahon was named Pitcher of the Year. With McMahon gone, Teter expects to carry more of the pitching load this year.
“She was a dominant pitcher, but we have to move on,” Teter said. “I do think I’ll pitch more but that doesn’t bother me. I’m used to it in summer ball.”
Teter is able to control the game from the pitching circle and the batter's box. Last season, Teter led the team with eight home runs and 48 runs batted in. She also tied McMahon in wins from the mound, with 20.
Even though Teter had success she had last season, she wants the Cougars to do better than their ninth-place finish at the NAIA national tournament last season.
“She works incredibly hard,” Columbia College coach Wendy Spratt said. “She did a lot of work over the summer.”
Despite all of the success Teter had last season, it wasn’t the highlight of her softball career. In 2005, Teter pitched a complete game no-hitter for Bevier High School to give them the Class 1 Missouri state title. She was even mentioned in Sports Illustrated for several hitting and pitching records state records she broke while at Bevier.
“It was amazing. It’s been a while since then, though,” Teter said. “It was an awesome experience.”
This season has not started the way Teter had hoped. The Cougars had their first four games canceled because of weather.
“We were really disappointed. We didn’t want to play in the freezing cold, though,” Teter said. “It was a relief to finally play.”
Then, when the Cougars finally started playing, they struggled at times. Spratt says she's not too worried because two of the Cougars' losses have come against top-10 teams.
“We’ve done pretty well,” Spratt said. “Obviously we’ve played some good teams.”
Teter is doing what she always does — excel. She is 9-2 on the mound for the Cougars and has a team-high six home runs. While it's clear Teter has a deep passion for the game of softball, it isn’t clear what she loves more, hitting or pitching.
“Wow. That’s a toss up,” Teter said. “If I had to choose one, I’d pick pitching because I’m more in control.”
As one of the captains on this year’s team, Teter is someone the other players will look to when things start going against the Cougars.
“Valerie’s a good leader. She hides her emotions, but she’ll say stuff if she needs to,” Schultz said. “On the field, she is all business.”