Shauna Collins turned in a good softball career at Roseburg High School, but not a great one.
Her best days were ahead.
I’m not sure there were many people who expected her to be this good of a player at the college level. Her four years at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls have been outstanding, though.
The 22-year-old senior shortstop is winding down her final season of softball, hoping to help the Owls advance to the NAIA Championships in Columbus, Ga., in late May.
Oregon Tech (24-8 overall), ranked No. 17 in the latest NAIA coaches’ Top 25, leads the Cascade Collegiate Conference race with a 15-3 record. Concordia is nipping at the Owls’ heels, one game back at 16-4. Those two clubs play a doubleheader on Saturday in Klamath Falls and will square off in Portland the following weekend — games that obviously will determine the league champion.
“It has been a good season, so far. A lot of fun, a great group of girls,” Collins said Thursday in a phone interview. “We haven’t peaked yet. Our pitching and defense is there; we can hit, but it’s a matter of us all doing it on the same day.”
The 5-foot-4 Collins — a first-team all-conference selection the past three years and CCC Gold Glove winner as a sophomore in 2012 for the fewest errors at her position — is the leadoff hitter for Greg Stewart’s Owls.
She leads OIT in batting average (.381), hits (43), runs (44) and stolen bases (13). Her on-base percentage is .470 and she owns a fielding percentage of .914, with 10 errors in 32 games.
“My best quality is my consistency,” she said. “Leading off, I’ve grown to love it. I try to get deep into counts and have always enjoyed hitting under pressure.”
Collins hit .358 as a freshman, .355 as a sophomore and .350 last year. Heading into today’s league twin bill with Northwest, she ranked second on the school’s all-time list in runs scored (187) and third in stolen bases (41).
“My (offensive) goal is to be above .400 by the end of the season,” she said.
Two other former Douglas County standouts are also contributing for the Owls.
Sophomore outfielder McKenzie Shrum (Glide), who’s starting and batting second behind Collins, is hitting .336 with two homers, 27 runs, 18 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
Freshman third baseman Sadie Birch (Douglas) has appeared in 18 games and is hitting .200 with one homer and three RBIs.
Collins feels the Owls certainly are capable of returning to the NAIA Championships after missing out last year. They won their first national title in 2011, which is Collins’ greatest athletic memory at the school.
Advancing to Columbus this year would be a sweet swan song for Collins, who’s one of three seniors on the club. She’s been part of 144 victories during her stay at OIT.
“I’m a leader by example,” Collins said. “I’m not the biggest talker on the team, but I speak up when I need to. Coach tells me I’m his quiet leader.”
As good as Collins has been on the field, she’s been just as impressive in the classroom with a 4.0 the past three terms.
Majoring in respiratory care, Collins was among several OIT athletes named to the CCC All-Academic Team.
Time management? She’s an A-plus.
“I consider myself a boring person,” she said. “I wake up before school and study. I’m here for a reason. I prioritize … I know my goals and don’t like to miss them.”
She sounded totally satisfied when I asked her to sum up her four years of college.
“I definitely made a good choice to come here,” she said. “It was the right fit for me.”
Shauna Collins gets kudos for a job well done at Oregon Tech.
• You can reach Sports Editor Tom Eggers at 541-957-4220 or by email at email@example.com