Marian softball was able to get 14 games in before the 2020 season was abruptly ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Up to that point, Rauhut had been tossing the ball as good as ever with five wins over 56.0 innings to go with a 2.25 earned run average and 54 strikeouts. She had also been named the NACC pitcher of the week after opening the annual spring trip 3-0 with a save. Rauhut had tossed 17.0 innings in those four appearances with a 1.24 earned run average. The highlight of this stretch was a one-hitter against Olivet facing only 23 batters.
“The emotions on the last day of the season were unexplainable, almost a mix of anger and sadness,” said Rauhut on the abrupt end of the season. “I really don’t think it’s possible to put into words how it felt to know I was playing my last game when I least expected it. It’s different when you know it’s coming and can have time to come to terms with it but it’s truly heartbreaking having to hear that 20 minutes before your last game.”
While her career on the diamond was put to a halt, her career in the classroom was not. Rauhut was able to close out her final semester and earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in sport and recreation management in May.
With the NCAA offering eligibility waivers for all student-athletes in spring sports, Rauhut was faced with the difficult decision of whether to return for a second senior season. The ending to her original senior season was a driving force for her decision to return along with the opportunity to pursue her master’s degree.
“I’ve always considered getting my masters and this seemed like the perfect time,” said Rauhut on why she chose to return. “How the season ended this past year was very unsettling and I don’t think I would have been able to come to terms with how it ended. The only thing that was difficult in deciding to come back was the fact that I’d no longer be able to play with my twin sister as coming back another year wasn’t as available for her.”
The coaching staff was also excited to hear she would return for more than just her abilities in the circle.
“Paige has developed into one of the best leaders we’ve had in a long time,” said head softball coach Tony Draves on what the return of Rauhut means. “She helps keep our team together in the offseason when coaches are not allowed to do so, and our players really look to her on the field as she is a great pitcher and means so much to our success. I’m honored that Paige and her family have decided for her to continue her playing career for a fifth year. She is doing countless extra things, making sacrifices to make this happen and it means so much to all of us.”
Rauhut enters this second chance at a final season with her name already littered in the Marian softball record books. She currently sits second in program history with 46 wins in her career, sixth for innings pitched at 475.2, fifth for shutouts with 10, fifth for strikeouts with 332, fifth for complete games with 43, and is currently tied for the all-time saves record with four. Rauhut has also earned an All-NACC first-team selection in her sophomore season to go with an All-NACC freshman team nod in her first year as a Sabre.
“Our expectations of her haven’t changed,” said Draves. “We expect her to work hard, be a great leader, and continue to improve in pressure situations as any player must work at. The challenge is going to be not having Paige put unrealistic pressure and expectations on herself. Last spring was packed with emotion after our season was canceled so there is a significant amount of emotion for Paige going into the season. We have to make sure we’re able to help her stay calm, enjoy another year of being a Sabre, and hopefully, that’s enough to help her finish off an amazing career the way she deserves.”
Rauhut echoes the expectations from her head coach saying she is most excited to simply take care of some unfinished business this upcoming season.
“I think the thing I’m most excited about is the opportunity to continue to get better and push myself,” said Rauhut. “I feel like we have some unfinished business as a team and I’m happy to be able to be a part of that. I’m so close with so many of the girls so I’m excited for an extra year with the team. I’m truly just so excited to be able to play one more year.”
This will be a busy year for Rauhut as she will look to balance practice and workouts with her schoolwork as she begins her masters of management program and a job with a local small company. Draves sees his top pitcher as up to the task, however.
“We came up with a plan for her schedule, and she usually makes arrangements to practice more than we had originally planned,” said Draves. “This scenario doesn’t work unless you have a student-athlete that can take care of their business and make the team feel like it’s important. Paige has made this an easy process thus far due to her dedication and desire to finish off a great career.”