Kate Peterburs considered downstate Quincy and McKendree among her leading college options, but the thought of playing college softball several hours from home wasn't ideal to the slugging infielder.
Then Wisconsin-Parkside entered the recruiting picture, and the closer proximity combined with an attractive, wooded campus setting and an "amazing" coaching staff made up the St. Charles East senior's mind.
"When Parkside popped up, it was perfect," Peterburs said.
Peterburs participated in two college signing ceremonies this week – one for her fellow St. Charles East softball teammates, and another for college-bound Wasco Diamonds travel players.
Peterburs has had plenty to celebrate dating to the spring as St. Charles East advanced to the IHSA Class 4A state championship game, but the past couple years have seen plenty of turbulence, too.
A long list of difficult circumstances – including the deaths of two grandparents and her family dog, plus the departure of a brother to the Navy – had Peterburs feeling down for portions of her high school career. Softball helped lift her morale.
"Softball's my favorite sport to play, it's my favorite sport to watch and everything," Peterburs said. "It helped me get my mind off everything that was going on. A lot of girls will tell you when you hit the ball, you hit it because you're mad. That was a lot of it. If I was at hitting lessons, it was awesome because I could just take out any anger or stress that was built up, and I could just crush the ball."
On top of the family circumstances, Peterburs also has dealt with numerous softball injuries, including a dislocated patella and severe bone contusion in her foot.
"I go through injuries like every season," Peterburs said. "But that's just because how I play. I play so rough because if it means diving for that diving catch, then I'll go for it. If I sprain my ankle in the process, I got that out."
Peterburs was East's first baseman last season but she is especially comfortable at third base, her usual position with the Diamonds. She's not sure where she'll land in the spring for her senior year.
"Third is my main position on my travel team so I prefer third, but first base, it gives me more experience on the field," Peterburs said. "It gives me more playing time. I'd rather be at first base than sitting on the bench. I'd rather be playing."
Playing time shouldn't be much of a concern for Peterburs this year after a dynamite junior season; the First Team Chronicle All-Area selection hit .491and drove in 32 runs as one of the most feared sluggers for the state runners-up Saints.
East is slated to return most of its lineup from last year's group, including a trio of Peterburs' teammates who also were part of the signing ceremony at the school – pitcher Haley Beno and outfielder Sarah Collalti, both of whom picked Olivet Nazarene, and outfielder Tess Hupe, who chose Illinois-Springfield.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.