Record Newspapers Athlete of the Week: Kiyah Chavez, Oswego, softball, junior

Iowa recruit set single-season hit record, led Oswego to first regional title since 1987

Oswego's Kiyah Chavez (10) in between innings during Class 4A Oswego Regional final softball game between Yorkville at Oswego. May 24th, 2024.

Name: Kiyah Chavez

School: Oswego, junior

Sport: Softball

Why she was selected: Chavez set a new program single-season hit record with her 55th, an RBI double, in Oswego’s regional final win over Yorkville for Oswego’s first regional title since 1987.

She was selected the Athlete of the Week in an online vote. Here is her interview with Sports Editor Joshua Welge.

Winning the first regional title in 37 years, how much was that talked about as a goal?

Chavez: It was talked about immediately from Day 1, even during preseason. We knew that we wanted two things out of this season. We wanted to make it as far as we could in this state tournament, and we wanted to be conference champs. Obviously, you know, things happen, we didn’t win conference, but I think that just motivated us further and ultimately made us better.

How much does it help you as a hitter to have such a deep lineup around you?

Chavez: The lineup I have around me makes my job so much easier. I don’t have to stress and feel that it’s all on me. I have phenomenal back up. I know that if I make a mistake or mess up, I’ve got eight other girls who can instantly pick me up. We have such a strong lineup one through nine and it takes stress of of me as a hitter and allows me to relax and do my job.

Did you make any changes to your approach or swing or anything? You had a good year last year but you’ve obviously taken off last summer and this season.

Chavez: Honestly, which is kind of odd, I think that the recruiting process helped me more than anything. When you’re getting recruited, it’s one of the most stressful times of your life because you’re up there and know that there’s all these coaches behind the backstop watching you, and you’re thinking that if you mess up, they aren’t going to offer you or they’re not going to want you at their school, which creates kink of a sink or swim situation in your head. So for me the mindset that I developed was that if they weren’t going to want me because I made one mistake, then that’s not an environment I want to be in anyway. Just telling myself that and constantly repeating it and having it in the back of my head during every game really helped me relax as a player. And I think because of that I was able to play my game and really just play to my full potential. Once you’re relaxed and having fun, you’re going to play as best as you can.

Has the power with homers come more this year and where did it come from?

Chavez: I’ve credited this guy probably a thousand times now, but my strength coach John Hugunin has helped me out a ton. He makes sure that I train like an athlete and not like a body builder, so I get all the strength factors and I get the speed and ability factors as well. A huge part of hitting is the mental side, and he’s helped me out a lot there as well. He played baseball too so he gets it. Home runs, I definitely do think it came from my strength training. If you look at our stats in the program overall, the girls who come in and lift with me in the morning are the ones who have hit the most home runs.

How did you get started playing catcher and what do you like about it?

Chavez: Like every softball player I started out as a pitcher! But the pitching thing didn’t work out so then I was introduced to catching. On my first travel team I was 10 and we had a couple other girls who had been catching longer than me, so I didn’t really get to catch in games just in practice because I wasn’t really that good. But then when I was 12, I moved over to the Naperville Diamonds and I played for Wayne Drehs. That guy believed in me to no end and I wouldn’t be anywhere I am without him. I really didn’t start catching until I was 12 and I fell in love with it right away. The connections you gain as a catcher with the coaches and your pitchers are unmatched. You three end up talking a lot more than the other athletes and it’s pretty special. It’s amazing to take on the leadership role that comes with the position.

What made you decide to commit to Iowa?

Chavez: Iowa has been my dream school for a long time. A lot of my family lives in Iowa and it was comforting to know that I would have that if I needed it. There’s something so special when you step on campus and you can just feel the support for the athletics right away, and you know that it’s somewhere you’re going to be supported. The coaches there are also a huge part for why I committed. A lot of schools actually don’t have catching coaches from my experience. That was a big part of why I chose Iowa, because they have a specific catching coach and they have specific times for catches to get to improve themselves, so that was super key for me.