All-around talent: Quam is POY
From the start of Lyndsey Quam's softball career with Zumbrota-Mazeppa, all signs pointed to her having the skill set and talent to become one of the school's best pitchers.
The road to becoming the ace of the pitching staff was muddied for Quam, however, with the Republican Eagle's 2016 All-Area Player of the Year, Morgan Olson, holding the job in 2016 and Quam splitting duties with Tara Matuska last year.
In the early days of Quam's career, she earned a varsity spot with her work at second base and at the plate. Although the path to pitching was blocked at that point, it didn't stop her from honing her craft.
"My sophomore year I went in three days a week and worked on my pitching," said Quam. "That alone helped me get on to varsity, even though I wasn't the pitcher."
Quam knew that Z-M head softball coach Kevin Nelson was looking for kids to put in the extra time pitching, even though a spot wasn't currently available. She said the experience of putting in the work as a sophomore was a key component to how she became the pitcher she is today.
"I just told her, 'You are so talented, I see way too much potential in you,'" said Nelson. "She worked hard at it. She didn't have great control early, but we continually worked on that and she improved."
By her junior year, Quam earned a chance to split pitching duties with Matuska and made the move to shortstop when she wasn't starting in the circle.
Midway through the season, Quam and Nelson realized just how much potential she had as a pitcher when the team traveled to a tournament in Jackson County to face, at the time, Class A No. 1-ranked New York Mills.
"I don't know what it was, but I just went out there and I just felt it that day," said Quam. "I pitched super well and we ended up 10-running that team. That made me see the better in myself."
From that point forward, Quam found herself as the winning pitcher in the Class A state championship last year and as the ace of the pitching staff in her senior year.
Although there wasn't a three-peat as a state champion this year, Quam's work as a pitcher was not the reason. She had a 16-4 record to go with a 1.75 ERA and a 7:1 strikeout to walk ratio.
"We've had a lot of good pitchers go through here and the last five or six have all pitched in college," said Nelson. "She's by far the most natural as far as the ball coming out freely."
Part of the reason why Quam feels so comfortable in the pitcher's circle is that she knows her defense will pick her up when she needs them to. She's aware that she can't strike out everyone — although her career numbers show almost otherwise.
"Last year I remember in our state championship game, I only had one strikeout, but we still held them to no runs," she said. "Defense is incredibly important, more important than anything you do offensively."
That mindset doesn't just relate to her teammates' defense either. She honed her craft as a defensive-minded pitcher by regularly taking infield practice. Quam wanted to be able to scoop up comebackers during games to help out her team. In her perspective, the early days in the middle infield positions aided her in that.
Offensively, the mental battle pitchers go through can sometimes impact their ability at the plate. For some pitchers, it's difficult to enter the circle knowing you need to shut the opposing team out or vice versa — enter the batter's box thinking you need to get a hit. It can become a game within the game.
Quam acknowledged the necessity in limiting overthinking while at the plate, which has given her an extra dimension to her game.
"The times that I go up there, don't think and say 'If it's a strike, hit it,' that's when I'm most successful," said Quam. "I'm more relaxed and not quite thinking about trying to hit it so much."
Nelson has noticed the maturation at the plate as well. He said she is always willing to lay down a bunt and use her speed to her advantage while also working the count to earn a walk.
A supporting cast
As much as Quam prides herself in the work she has put in to become a great softball player, she also is keenly aware of the surrounding influences that she can utilize to become even better.
Sister and battery mate, Natalye Quam, is perhaps her greatest resource. The pair spend most of their days together forming a bond and relationship that not only can be seen on the field, but one that will continue to grow after they graduate high school.
"I absolutely love having her as my catcher, although she might not like it because I'm kind of wild at times," said Quam. "Even on some of my other teams that I didn't get to have her as my catcher, she made such a difference. I'm going to miss her so much next year."
Also competing for Quam's time during the softball season is Nelson, who she acknowledged she spends more time with during the season than her family, aside from Natalye.
"He's definitely become one of the most influential people in my life over the years," Quam said. "He's a super knowledgeable guy about softball. Anything that you have a question about, he'll answer for you on the spot."
In addition to her softball-related influences, she recognized that the other sports she participates in has shaped her into a better athlete. Participating in volleyball and basketball in the fall and winter, respectively, she can take skills and values from one sport and carry it to another.
"Softball has built such a good base of values and core things that you need in the rest of your life," she said. "And being in multiple sports makes me as well-rounded as possible."
And that's the thing with Quam. She doesn't just want to hone in on one skill and perfect it, she aims to improve in all areas with any task. A mindset like that has certainly molded her into a great softball player, and undoubtedly sets her up for future success off the field as well.