Kelsey McFarland off to hot start for Iowa State softball team


Iowa State senior Kelsey McFarland gets ready to bunt in the second inning against Iowa Central Sept. 27, 2016.

Andy Stubblefield

When Kelsey McFarland picked up a bat to play when she was 7 years old, she had no idea how far the sport could take her. McFarland began playing softball at age 10 and has been playing ever since.

McFarland began her high school softball career in New Prague, Minnesota. As a freshman, she made an immediate impact on and off the field.

“As younger member of the team, she became a leader,” Pat Perkinson, McFarland’s first high school coach, said. 

McFarland batted third in the order for New Prague, a role she thrived in.

“[McFarland] always came up with a big hit when we needed it,” Perkinson said.

In her first two years of high school, McFarland had a .562 batting average, Perkinson said.

“[McFarland] was one of the hardest working players I ever had,” Perkinson said.

Multiple colleges noticed.

The high school standout had opportunities to play in college at Minnesota, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Northern Iowa, UNLV and Iowa State.

During her sophomore year of high school, McFarland gave her verbal commitment to play softball at Iowa State.

“It was just a good fit for me,” McFarland said. “It just felt like home.”

Due to complications with her grandmother’s health, McFarland moved to Henderson, Nevada, to play her senior season of softball at Foothill High School.

“My grandma was really sick, so I went out there to spend more time with them and help them out,” McFarland said.

After graduating, McFarland moved to Ames.

In her first season with the Cyclones, McFarland started all 54 games and was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman team. She recorded 43 hits in her debut season, fifth most by a freshman in school history. If that wasn’t impressive enough, all three of her home runs on the season were grand slams.

McFarland’s sophomore season showed growth for the slugger. She batted in the clean-up spot for most of the season and recorded 37 RBIs, 18 more than her freshman season. The sophomore hit eight home runs and recorded 46 hits on the season.

At the beginning of this season, McFarland picked up right where she left off.

Through the first 14 games of the season, McFarland’s batting average was .463.

“She’s confident, she sees the ball well, she’s aggressive and she’s not afraid,” head coach Jamie Trachsel said. “She’s a natural hitter.”

One of McFarland’s favorite things about the sport is the challenge that it presents.

“Everywhere in the game there is a challenge,” McFarland said. “It’s a game of failure. If you bat 10 times and hit .400, you failed 6 times.”

McFarland and the Cyclones were faced with a big challenge this season. The team was forced to adjust to playing for a new coach. A new coach brings a new style of play, practice and culture.

Trachsel and McFarland both have one thing in common.

They like to win.

It wasn’t just the players who had to adjust to a new coach. Trachsel had to adjust to new players, and her first impression of McFarland was a good one.

“[McFarland] is determined and passionate,” Trachsel said. “She wants to win, wants to be a part of something and was excited for change.”

Another aspect of the game that McFarland loves is that it is a team sport. She loves spending time with her teammates, and her teammates value her in return.

Fellow outfielder Cathlin Bingham described McFarland as a silly and goofy person who can be seen on campus carrying a tennis ball to throw at anyone she might know. As roommates, McFarland and Bingham push each other to get better.

“[McFarland] is a great athlete,” Bingham said. “She is always challenging me to get better in the weight room and on the field.”

McFarland is a leader both on and off the field. Bingham said she is not the most vocal person on the team but is still is still a strong leader as a junior.

“[McFarland] leads by example,” Bingham said.

Trachsel has noticed McFarland’s connection to the team as well.

“The area where we have seen her most improve is actually being connected to her teammates,” Trachsel said. “Getting out of her comfort zone. Being a good player that is still connected to the people around her.”

The connections off the field can be seen in the Cyclones’ play on the field. The Cyclones began the season with a 2-3 record at the Louisiana Classic, followed by a 5-0 weekend at the Tennessee State Tournament. McFarland played a large role in a school-record outing in which the Cyclones scored 21 runs against Alabama A&M.

McFarland credited the turnaround to playing more as a team.

“Playing as a team, having positive high energy,” McFarland said. “Keep grinding and not giving up after we lost those three games in Lafayette.”

After posting an 0-4 record at the Samford/UAB tournament and a 1-4 record at the St. George Red Desert Classic, the Cyclones have an 8-11 record this season.

If McFarland keeps playing at a high level and continues improving into her senior year, opportunities to continue playing after college could present themselves.

For now, McFarland is worried about helping her team in the present.

“I just try to take it one day at a time and do the best I can where I am now,” McFarland said.