You don’t have to be watching a Saluki softball game to know if Katie Bertelsen is on the mound.
Each pitch Bertelsen throws is accompanied by a piercing yell that can be heard by common passersby outside the stadium.
‘The Scream,’ as it has come to be known among the softball team, might startle an opposing fan or batter unprepared for it but is commonplace for the Salukis and their fans.
“It’s my trademark,” Bertelsen said. “I’ve been doing it since 3rd grade. It’s weird to think of pitching without grunting.”
Bertelsen said her father came up with the idea while the two were attempting to figure out a way for her to increase velocity on her pitches. After a pitching session filled with grunts and screams, the grade school Bertelsen, now a freshman, was hooked on the technique.
Although Bertelsen is the only “grunting” pitcher in the Missouri Valley Conference, softball coach Kerri Blaylock said the approach is nothing new to her.
“It’s probably more rare now, but I was actually a ‘grunter’ when I threw, so it’s not unusual to me,” she said. “You’ll see them every once in awhile, but most are a lot quieter. (Bertelsen) kind of lets it rip.”
Blaylock pitched for the University of Evansville from 1985-1988, and still holds virtually every softball pitching record at the school, according to the Saluki Athletics website.
Although it draws questioning glances from the opposing team, Bertelsen said the scream is only a mechanism to help her throw with more power and she does not believe it gives her any advantage over batters.
“It might intimidate the batters but I just do it to throw harder,” she said. “It helps me to come off the mound harder and put everything I’ve got into it. People in high school were scared of my scream, but in college, girls are bigger and stronger, so they are used to it.”
While Bertelsen’s teammates are used to the scream now, they were caught off-guard the first time they heard it, said sophomore catcher Allie VadeBoncouer.
“The first time I heard it was a little weird because I had never heard anything like it before,” VadeBoncouer said. “I don’t even notice it is there anymore. It’s part of who she is.”
Blaylock compares the scream to the sound a weightlifter might make when lifting an extremely heavy amount.
“She’s so little, but she’s powerful,” Blaylock said. “I think that might be where it comes from. She’s so little, but she’s powerful for her size and that’s to her advantage.”
So far, the scream seems to be working well for Bertelsen. The 5’1” righty currently holds a 4.03 earned run average and leads the team with 11 wins.
Fans can see (and hear) Bertelsen and the Salukis this weekend when they host conference foe Northern Iowa in the final home series of the season.