Photo By Hillary Ehlen
Whether Cara Beatty knows it or not, North Dakota State has always been weaved into her softball career. The clear correlation comes from her sister, Bre, who was a former Summit League Tournament MVP and All-Summit League performer for the Bison. However, the younger Beatty’s original recruitment was full of figures who are at or were at North Dakota State at one time.
The Las Vegas native says she originally committed to a hometown school, UNLV. She ended her recruitment in high school to become a Runnin’ Rebel. Fate had another path for Cara Beatty as the head coach, assistant coaches and athletic director all left UNLV before her prep career ended. Because of the vast turnover in staff, Beatty re-opened her recruitment and one of the school’s that came calling was North Dakota State. Her sister Bre was currently on the roster and the decision to come to Fargo may have seemed like a no-brainer to the casual outsider. During the process, Beatty was being recruited by former NDSU co-head coach Jamie Trachsel.
Then, Trachsel left to become the head coach at Iowa State. Beatty used her familiarity with Trachsel when making her choice to become a Cyclone. “When Jamie Trachsel was at Iowa State, she was the one that talked to me when she was at North Dakota State in my initial recruiting process,” Beatty said. “When she went to Iowa State and knew about everything that happened at UNLV, she was the one who recruited me there. I had heard so many great things about her from Bre so I wanted to play for a coach that was going to instill the right kind of program.”
While Beatty committed to play for Iowa State and coach Trachsel, by the time she got to Ames, Trachsel had moved on. She is currently the head coach at the University of Minnesota. Beatty played her freshman season under coach Jamie Pinkerton, playing in 12 games and driving in four runs in those games. While playing in the Big 12 is illustrious territory for many collegiate athletes, Beatty wanted to make the most of her college years.
That is when she decided to transfer from Iowa State. Luckily, she had a past familiarity with another school, North Dakota State. “Even though it seems like four years is a long time, it’s really a short period in your life. So many people would kill to be in the position that a college athlete is in, to make it to this level. Since you only get so much time, I just wanted to make the most of it and I thought NDSU would be the right place to do that,” she said. “I’ve seen everything that this program can do, I’ve seen them beat teams like Oklahoma, LSU, they just have a great program. I trust Darren and I already met some of the girls from Bre playing here and going to some of their games in the past. I wanted to make the best experience I could out of the short time I have.”
Beatty’s sister Bre graduated at the end of last season after batting .313, hitting five home runs and driving in 30 runs. The younger Beatty came to campus shortly after her sister graduated to carry on the Beatty legacy which will now stretch close to a decade once Cara graduates in 2021. Cara has indeed begun her sophomore season, and Bison career, strong. She batted .300 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in NDSU’s first 13 games. This fast start is highlighted by her game-winning double against Abilene Christian to cap a five-run Bison comeback on February 10.
For Beatty, starting strong has always been a struggle. Yet, she seemed to have found the right formula this season.”That’s actually been a big challenge for me and this is really the first year where I’ve been able to get off to a good start. I’ve usually been a slow starter, historically,” she said. “This year I think the biggest thing was just simplifying everything and trying to have fun. Not trying to overthink mechanics during a game, just focusing on what needs to get done and doing it with passion. It seems to be working out so far.”
She can now cross “fast start” off her to-do list, but the real challenge will be keeping this level play up all season. As many are aware, softball is a sport of peaks and valleys, especially for hitters. Beatty quantifies consistency in an interesting way, using failure as the key gauge. “It comes down to just playing the game and not overthinking because if one bad thing happens, you just got to get over it. I mean, it happens, that’s why batting .300 is a good average, we still fail 70 percent of the time,” she said. “You need to learn how to move past it and try to make your adjustments basically. That’s been another big thing for me, I know our team has been consistently working on that, just being able to make adjustments from pitch to pitch, at-bat to at-bat, just figuring out what you need to change and getting better at doing it faster.”
Through 39 games, Beatty has hit eight home runs (tied for best on the team) and driven in 26 runs. Couple that with a .246 batting average.
“It comes down to just playing the game and not overthinking because if one bad thing happens, you just got to get over it. I mean, it happens, that’s why batting .300 is a good average, we still fail 70 percent of the time.”
It’s clear that Cara Beatty is rather mature for her age. Not only that, she understands the game extremely well and seems to be a veteran despite this being her sophomore year in college. Much of that experience can be attributed to her sister Bre. While the elder Beatty only played one season of high school softball with Cara, she was incredibly impactful on Cara as a softball player.
“We were close enough in age that we were still very competitive with each other but old enough to where I still looked up to her a lot. I would say the big thing, considering we had a year of high school ball together, I was always trying to catch her, always on her tail, trying to be better than her,” Beatty said. “I looked up to her work ethic a lot growing up, she’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen, so I really try to take after her in that way.”
That’s not to say she compares herself to Bre as a player or wants to match what her sister did at NDSU. In fact, she wants to be better than Bre in many respects, but she is quick to point out that being the better Bison Beatty is not at the forefront of her mind. “I would say each generation should be better than the next, it should always be improving and trying to get better. I definitely respect what she did here and I would like to do as great or greater things, but it’s also not something I’m trying to focus on,” she said. “I’m still focused on how I can help the team win and if it means that I do surpass her in some ways, then I’m okay with that.”
Beatty laughed at that thought after she said it. So one has to assume, she is not putting too much precedence on out-doing her older sister on the softball diamond.
While NDSU softball has become a nationally recognized program over the course of the last decade, they still remain humble. Despite consistently making NCAA Regional games and beating high-level teams like Oklahoma, Tulsa and Mississippi State, they still have a chip on their shoulder. When asked what is so special about this program specifically, Cara Beatty points out how much fun this team has when they’re playing.
“One of the big things that stood out to me was how much fun we can have on the field and how much better we play when we do have fun. We’re also a very scrappy team, we’re good, but no matter what situation we’re in, we’re going to find a way to fight. Even if it doesn’t mean we come out on top, we’re not going to make it easy on anyone,” she said. “We’re going to fight and we’re going to have fun doing that. We don’t care about the name on people’s jerseys, we just want to go out there and play the game we know how to play.”
For a player who has not been with the program too long, she gives an incredibly accurate summation of Darren Mueller’s program. Then again, Cara Beatty does have some familiarity with North Dakota State and its softball team, it runs in the family bloodline now. It is now Cara Beatty’s turn to carry on the family’s softball legacy at NDSU. Safe to say, she’s on the path to do far more in Fargo.