Despite being only a sophomore, Abigail Klahold, 15, gave her Santa Clara Bruins an absolutely mind-blowing performance this season — in more ways than one.
The Numbers Speak for Themselves
Klahold dominated on the softball diamond. She did so while leading off and catching, an incredibly rare combination. Catchers aren’t typically known for speed, but Klahold stole seven bases this season while not once being caught. Her seven steals were tied for second on the team behind senior Nevaeh Tayama’s eight. Only one other teammate stole more than three bases with a 100-percent success rate, Hailey Tran went six-for-six.
Stealing certainly wasn’t Klahold’s only offensive trick. Despite limited opportunities to knock in runs as a leadoff hitter, she still finished second on the team in RBI with 13, just one behind teammate Victoria Latz’ 14. The rest of the major offensive categories saw Klahold finish best on the team. The sophomore finished first in batting average (.483), on-base percentage (.557), slugging percentage (.689), and walks (9). Klahold also tied first in home runs with one, tied second in doubles with five and second in triples with three.
Klahold certainly didn’t slack off when it came to defense either. In 71 total chances, she committed just three errors. Her tremendous .958 fielding percentage was second on the team amongst those with 45 or more chances. Klahold caught two runners stealing on eleven total attempts, for an 18 percent success rate. After speaking with Klahold, it sounds like her caught-stealing percentage is the one statistic she’ll most want to improve upon most next season. Teammate and fellow catcher Racquel Blassingame threw out four runners in eight chances for a 50-percent success rate.
“She was one of our catchers last year,” noted Klahold on Blassingame, (the two were also teammates on varsity in 2018). “I remember her throwing out a lot of runners. I can learn a lot from her as a catcher. It’s something I definitely want to improve on.”
Strength in the Face of Adversity
Now any high school student, particularly any underclassman thriving at the varsity level would be an impressive story. However, what transcends Klahold’s season from merely impressive, to inspirational, is what she has had to go through off the field.
For the past four years Klahold has been taking medication for hypothyroidism. It wasn’t until this past fall though that her doctors noticed some thyroid nodules. After a biopsy was inconclusive her doctors recommended surgery.
“She had her first surgery in January, it was probably about the size of a kiwi removed from her neck and it came back as cancer,” said Doug Klahold, Abigail’s father. “The plan was then to get the second side taken out in February over winter break. She then had to get radioactive iodine treatment to kill any remaining thyroid cells and anything that might of spread. Thankfully, there’s no sign of it spreading in her scans.”
“The fact that she’s playing so well combined with what she’s been through, she’s been an absolute trooper,” added Klahold’s father. “I don’t know how I would have been able to deal with that at 15.”
The two surgeries made for an extremely tough start of Klahold’s softball season, but the iodine treatment done in April was the toughest two-week stretch for the teenager.
“She had to be completely isolated, pretty much solitary confinement. She was in our back bedroom for five days. She couldn’t be around anyone else as to not expose anyone else,” recalled her father. “It was a challenging time. Leading up to the iodine treatment she had to stop taking her medicine which brought her energy level down. Watching her play, you could tell she was pushing to get through it. She continued to play surprisingly well for what she was going through.”
“She’s been a rock,” said Stephanie Klahold, Abigail’s mother. “No complaining, no whining. You are not gonna hear her complain — even when things got rough a couple weeks ago with the radioactive iodine — the therapy made her pretty sick. It was hard.”
Through it all, Klahold performed to the level of the team’s MVP. Wanting to be on the field for her teammates was something that helped pull her through.
“There were definitely a few games where I just felt really exhausted,” admitted the sophomore. “But I knew I had to push through it in order to help the team. I definitely felt really tired. This season was one of the hardest seasons I think I’ve ever played, but I think I did a really good job pushing through and helping my team.”
“The surgeries prepared me a lot because I already knew what it was like to recover from something major,” added Abigail Klahold. “So, when I heard that I had to do the [iodine treatment] in April, I just knew I would be able to do it.”
According to Klahold she only told a few friends about what she was dealing with, but that she wanted to be open about it with her teammates.
“Softball is something I have a passion for and when you step out onto the field everything else going on in your life kind of fades away,” she said. “I knew that [my teammates] would be there for me because we are all really close. I knew that they would understand so I felt like I could talk to them a lot. I didn’t want to tell a lot of people, though, because I didn’t want them necessarily feeling bad for me and feeling like they had to do something extra. I kinda just wanted to go through it on my own because I knew I had the strength to do it.”
Last year, as a freshman, Klahold had only 31 plate appearances, third fewest on the team. She hit just .240, the third-lowest average. Her statistical turnaround in just one year going from freshman to sophomore would have been a remarkable story on its own. Add in the difficulties with the multiple surgeries and the brutal iodine treatment? Easily one of the most awe-inspiring performances on a softball diamond that will ever be seen.
Against all those odds, Klahold managed to be an elite table-setting performer as the Bruins’ leadoff hitter this season.
But how does she do setting the table for her parents?
“She normally needs a little bit of nudging in that direction, in my opinion,” chuckled Klahold’s mother. “But given what else has been going on, we’ve let her slide a little bit.”
Sliding certainly seems to be a theme for the young Klahold. Sliding safely into second base on steals and sliding into the hearts of the local Santa Clara community with her inspirational play.