Opposing teams that didn’t scout Mountain View High softball players Emily Klemm and Simi Lauwers were in for an unpleasant surprise once the game began.
Centerfielder Klemm and pitcher Lauwers are deceptively good at what they do.
Despite her lack of size, Klemm packs a punch at the plate and has the arm strength to throw out runners at any base.
Unlike a lot of aces, Lauwers doesn’t overpower batters – she gets them out with her craftiness.
“Simi doesn’t throw as hard as everyone else, but she throws a lot of junk at you,” Mountain View head coach Xavier Cook said. “She’s not going to get 10 strikeouts a game, but she’ll get you to pop up or ground out. It shows that speed isn’t everything.”
Neither is size, as the 5-foot-4 Klemm has proven. Cook had good reason to bat her third or fourth in the lineup this season.
“She’s a power hitter, even though she’s not very big,” he said of Klemm, who used to bat leadoff. “She puts the ball over the fence quite often.”
Klemm and Lauwers developed their respective skills over years of hard work. Both girls have been year-round players since elementary school and are members of A-level travel teams. Klemm plays for the San Jose Lady Sharks; Lauwers is on the Fremont-based Lady Wolfpack.
Pivotal to the program
The two seniors have played for Mountain View’s varsity team since they were sophomores. Klemm and Lauwers shared team captain duties this season.
“They’ve been a huge part of our program,” Cook said. “They’ve played a big part in our success.”
When the Spartans edged Los Gatos 6-5 last year to essentially wrap up the SCVAL De Anza Division title, Klemm and Lauwers came through in the clutch. Klemm belted a game-tying home run in the seventh – her second of the game – and Lauwers earned the win in relief by shutting down the Wildcats in that final frame.
Mountain View earned its first invitation to the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs – comprising the top eight teams – but made a quick exit with an extra-inning loss to Carlmont in the quarterfinals.
Klemm and Lauwers said the loss hurt and that the team was eager to make amends this year. The Spartans were off to an encouraging start, going 4-2 before the season was canceled in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we would have been very strong in league,” Lauwers said. “Our pitching, defense and hitting were all strong, and the coaches know to utilize people to the best of their ability. If we made it to CCS, I think we could have done well.”
Klemm noted that this year’s team not only had talent, but also the intangibles critical for success.
“We were really close, and we connected well and meshed well,” she said. “I thought we could have gone really far if we made CCS.”
Klemm flexes muscle
Klemm was hitting the ball far when the season came to a premature end. She smacked a double that scored both of Mountain View’s runs in its March 11 finale, a 4-2 loss at powerhouse St. Francis. Klemm finished the year batting .375, led the team with five RBIs and was tied for the most hits with six. Those hits included a triple and a home run.
Klemm’s power – her .750 slugging percentage ranked second on the team – even amazes her coach.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Cook said with a chuckle when asked how she does it. “I think it’s all about her swing.”
Klemm acknowledged that she does work hard on her mechanics, but that’s not the only reason she’s able to go deep.
“My dad has me lifting weights,” she said. “I look small, but I feel strong.”
Klemm added that it “feels good” to surprise the opposition when she’s at bat or patrolling center field.
“I love throwing runners out, especially at home, and making plays people don’t expect me to make,” she said.
Lauwers wins with spin
Lauwers surprises opposing teams with the way she’s able to move the ball from the mound. She specializes in the spin.
“I’ve gone to a (pitching) coach for many years and he’s very much about the spin of the ball, and that’s what I work on,” she said. “I have a drop ball and a rise ball, and with the right spin you can get the ball to really move. You can get people to pop up and ground out more, because they’re not expecting the spin.”
Klemm, the Spartans’ second pitcher, has learned a thing or two from Lauwers.
“I often ask her how she throws the curve and spins the ball,” she said. “Simi has a really nice curve, rise – all the pitches. Her spin is crazy.”
Lauwers last year posted a team-best record of 9-3 with an 0.74 ERA. She was off to a 2-1 start this season, notching 14 strikeouts and walking only four batters.
“Simi gives the girls so much confidence when she’s on the mound,” Cook said. “I think she could have been the league MVP this year.”
Lauwers is a threat at the plate as well. Her .444 batting average topped the team this season.
“I enjoy hitting, but I don’t get to do it that often,” she said. “It’s fun to be a pitcher and face the pitcher of the other team. You know the strike zone and what pitches to look for.”
Next stop: college
Although Lauwers and Klemm have played their last game at Mountain View, their softball careers are far from finished. Both girls plan to play in college.
Lauwers has committed to Chapman University, where she will play alongside older sister Rani, a catcher in her junior year.
“I knew I wanted a small (NCAA) DIII school, where there’s a good balance of schoolwork and sports,” said Lauwers, who is interested in a medicine-related major. “I visited, and I liked the school and the coach. They have a good team; it’s one of the best in the conference, skillwise.”
Klemm hasn’t chosen a college yet, but she has options: the University of San Diego, a Division I program, and Division III schools Whittier College and Lewis & Clark College. Klemm is also undecided on a major but said she is considering speech pathology.