‘I just worked by butt off’ -- Klaiber overcomes knee injury to lead Badin softball

Halle Klaiber had the best form of motivation she could have asked for prior to the start of the high school softball season.

The Badin High School senior was told her chances of hitting the diamond were minuscule, but she didn’t want to hear any of it.

“Not happening,” Klaiber said. “There was no way I was going to miss my senior year.”

Klaiber, the 2023 Greater Catholic League Coed Athlete of the Year, suffered a torn meniscus while sliding on a turf field during a fall ball game in October.

She underwent surgery in November, and the road to recovery was on.

“I really had to come back,” Klaiber said. “I didn’t get to participate in any of the after-school offseason stuff. I just worked my butt off in therapy, and I said I would do whatever it takes to come back.

“I never really got to set an example for them before the season. So I knew when the season started and when my chances of coming back were getting better, I had to set an example for how I did.”

She felt like that because she was the only senior on the team.

So what did Klaiber do? She conquered through therapy to return to the lineup just four games into the season — a month ahead of schedule.

“She absolutely worked so hard to come back from a really debilitating knee injury that people weren’t giving her a shot to come back from,” Badin coach Greg Stitzel said. “She was there all winter long — sitting with crutches, sitting on the bucket, sitting on a chair — cheering the girls on.

“She would even get out there on crutches sometimes and do some upper body stretches. She was a hell of a leader.”

Klaiber was the Rams’ leader on a squad filled with eight freshmen, three sophomores and three juniors.

Badin suffered a 5-0 loss to New Richmond in a Division II district semifinal on Tuesday night, but that was way after the Rams battled without their lone upperclassman for much of the offseason and the small portion at the beginning of the season.

Badin went 1-3 without Klaiber before finishing 17-8, which included a mid-season span where the Rams won nine of 10 and a second consecutive GCL Coed title.

“Basically, I was being told that I wasn’t going to play my senior year, but still having an option to possibly come back. It all depends on what you do. That was a big motivator for me,” Klaiber said. “I definitely knew I had to come back for this team. I knew I didn’t want to leave this team with how I was as a player and how I was as a person — because I love every single one of them.”

Klaiber finished her senior year as the GCL Coed’s best in earned run average (1.76), wins (17) and strikeouts (172). She tied the league best with four home runs, was second-best with a .547 batting average and was fourth-best with 30 RBIs.

“It was amazing just watching her grow over time and work so hard to come back to be with these girls,” Stitzel said. “Going 17-8, winning our league and making it to the district semifinals — that’s pretty good considering we were so young. But we’ve got some good ones now and some good ones coming up.”

Klaiber said she’s currently looking at numerous colleges but isn’t committed yet.

“I’m open to a lot of options,” she said. “I’m still working my butt off — the weight room and after school and after games even. I still do stuff to get better every single day. I was making sure I’m good for this team and the team that comes after this. Basically, being the only senior, I tried to learn from my past senior teammates who inspired me on how to lead a team.

“Because this team is mostly underclassmen, I hope they’ll remember this moment and how it felt and hope they come back with some sort of vengeance. Hopefully, I was able to have that impact for them to have that kind of mindset.”

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