Edina softball freshman pitcher Genevieve Ovsak. [CARLOS GONZALEZ, Star Tribune]
When Genevieve Ovsak was 7 years old, she would follow her older sister, Grace, to the park. Grace was getting help from a softball coach, Jim Feldman, as Genevieve watched from afar, mimicking her sister’s movements.
Eventually, Genevieve got help from Feldman, too. Grace stopped playing the sport her sophomore year of high school. Her younger sister isn’t that old yet but her softball-playing future looks to extend much longer.
Genevieve, a ninth-grader on Edina’s varsity softball team, has already committed to play the sport at Syracuse University. She started for the Hornets in eighth grade, earning a reputation as a hard-throwing pitcher. Edina coach Keith Johnson said he knew that Ovsak could throw fast the first day he met her, when the pitcher was just 9 years old.
“I didn’t know she was 9, because she was tall,” Johnson said. “She’s always been one of the taller kids, but seeing her back then pitching and seeing that she was one of the younger kids pitching, throwing that hard — I was surprised.”
Now 5-11, Ovsak gets instruction in a decidedly high-tech way from Jason Iuli, who used to be an assistant coach at Hamline but now lives in San Diego. They try to meet up three to four times a year, though the two still practice together weekly with the aid of an iPad Mini that Ovsak attaches to a tripod. It allows her to film pitching routines in an Edina softball facility, with Iuli watching from across the country.
“We have a clamp that fits on the tripod, that holds it or aims it however you want it,” Genevieve’s father, Grant, said. “We connect up the speakers so it’s loud enough that we can hear him.”
Genevieve also has been focusing on academics from a young age. She was on an all-girls robotics team last year in the programming section for the group. She also has been taking the ACT since the sixth grade and got a composite score of 29 when she took it this year.
“It’s all just to get to know the test and [to] feel comfortable taking it,” Ovsak said. “I learned better ways to study it, because once 10th grade begins, it counts.”
Her father said Genevieve’s two older siblings also took the ACT as middle-schoolers. Her older brother, Gavin, now attends Harvard Medical School, while Grace attends the University of North Dakota.
Genevieve pitched for the Hornets’ junior varsity team in seventh grade. A year later, the departure of a senior pitcher on the varsity roster created an opening that she eventually filled. Her classmates and teachers alike questioned Ovsak when she left her classes early at Southview Middle School to go to softball games.
“None of her friends even knew what to think about last year,” Grant said. “You’d miss a lot of last period, especially for away games.”
Ovsak is coming off a year when she went 9-7 with a 2.37 earned run average, to go with a .353 batting average and 17 runs batted in. This year, her team has yet to play a game due to inclement weather.
“She’s really worked into our team well, even though she’s years younger than the rest of us,” senior outfielder Ellie Soukup said.
Jack White is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.