Growing up, Lexi Reetz wanted to win.
Whether it was some sort of sporting event or family board game or a deal of the cards, the Oshkosh North senior has always flashed a sharp competitive streak when something was contested.
She just didn’t always deal with the results very well.
“When I was younger, if I wouldn’t win, it was a bad night at my house,” Reetz said. “Usually I would stop playing after I would lose.”
Now, she funnels any competitive frustration into striking out an opponent or drilling another base hit.
The four-year varsity starter has been a double threat for the Spartan softball team this season. She entered the week as the team’s leading hitter with a .465 average, 14 RBI and had struck out just twice in 50 plate appearances.
She has also made her mark on the mound where she is 3-1 with a 3.17 earned run average for North and has racked up 49 strikeouts in 42 innings.
Despite her success in both areas of the game, there is no doubt in Reetz’s mind where she feels most comfortable on the diamond.
“Pitcher for sure. I feel like that’s where I belong,” said Reetz, a second-team all-FVA selection last year. “Hitting is super fun and stuff, but there’s nothing like the feeling of striking someone out in a tough situation.”
Reetz starting pitching when she was “8- or 9-years old” in the youth programs in Oshkosh, but it wasn’t an instant connection to the position.
“I struggled for a long time,” said Reetz, who was also a starting setter for the Spartan volleyball team in the fall. “It took me awhile before I was even halfway decent. I practiced a lot before I could pitch in games.”
By the time she reached high school, though, she had definitely refined her craft.
Reetz started pitching at the varsity level as a freshman, which is no easy task in the talent-laden Fox Valley Association. That season, four teams from the FVA posted at least 19 wins and Appleton East made the state semifinals.
“Being a senior now and looking at the conference, I really don’t know how I did it as a freshman,” Reetz said. “When you’re a freshman playing against seniors, they are going to have good bats up there and it’s just insane looking that I’ve done it for four years now.”
Although she was the Spartans main pitcher as a freshman and sophomore and held her own in the rugged conference, Reetz — who now teams with Shaye Gauthier to give North a strong 1-2 punch — has really found her groove on the mound the past two seasons.
The natural maturation process has helped spur Reetz’s improvement, but a coaching change in the Spartans’ program has also contributed to her blossoming into one of the top players in the league.
“There are a lot of good teams in this league and a lot of good hitters in this league and you have to bring your ‘A’ game every pitch. That’s something from last year to this year, Lexi has come a long way with that. She’s matured a lot,” Spartans’ head coach Cindy Suess said. “She’s just grown as a person and a player and has become much more competitive overall.”
Reetz is both competitive and confident, two attributes she has always brought with her to the mound but have grown the past two seasons.
“Well, when you’re 10, I mean I thought I was pretty good back then, too, but the past two years I feel like I have really become a good pitcher,” Reetz said. “I’m more confident now, knowing that I do have more support there and our team has been better the last couple years so that definitely helps me out.”
The maturation, as well as her position, have pushed Reetz into a leadership role for the Spartans as well.
“I take pride in being a leader. I enjoy being in that role,” Reetz said. “I’ve always been a natural leader I think. I know when I pitch, I know people have more confidence in me because I am a leader and so I have more confidence in myself as well because I know I’m doing it for everyone, not just for me.”
With Reetz leading the way, the Spartans’ program has turned a corner as well.
After winning just 11 games her first two seasons combined, North racked up 16 victories last year and reached the sectional semifinal before bowing out to Kaukauna.
The Spartans are on pace to reach that win total again this season and are in the hunt for a finish in the top half of the conference.
“Regardless of how our team ends up this year, I know that people are going to look at Oshkosh North very differently than when I started high school,” Reetz said. “I’m super thankful the new coaching staff has come in. You can just see it with the way we play. We’re just a different team out there.”
It’s a team that Reetz — who plans to attend Ripon College next year and play softball — won’t be a part of much longer as her prep career ticks away with each passing game.
She said she doesn’t want to think about taking the Spartan uniform off for good when the time comes.
“I think about it and it’s crazy that it’s gone by so fast. When I pitch, I think about how I’m not going to be doing this a lot longer for (North), so I really give it everything I have every game,” Reetz said. “When you are in the season, it kind of seems like long practices, long weeks. It gets kind of tiring. But looking back, it’s gone by in like a blink of an eye.”
Steve Clark: (920) 426-6659 or email@example.com