Two former Ram athletes concluded their college careers on the diamond as Korey Kuhlmann finished his baseball career at South Dakota State University and Kendra Sexton wrapped up her softball career at Central College.
South Dakota State University
Korey Kuhlmann recently completed his college baseball career at South Dakota State University.
College baseball has been a completely night and day difference from high school baseball, Kuhlmann said. In high school, Kuhlmann had a total of 536 career strikeouts, including 181 his senior season.
At the college level, he is what they call a “pitcher only.” He hasn’t swung a bat since high school.
“The level of difficulty is way tougher, and everyone in the lineup, one through nine, is always a challenge, and you can never take pitches off.”
After graduating from Maple Valley-Anthon Oto in 2015, Kuhlmann continued his baseball career at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.
Kuhlmann said baseball at Iowa Western was a grind, but he loved it because competing with the best is what made him a better baseball player.
“Coming in as a freshman from a small town and playing with some of the greatest players I have seen humbled me real quick,” Kuhlmann said. “A quote I liked a lot from Coach Rardin was ‘You have to have an ego to drop your ego.” Hearing that not only impacted me as a baseball player, but also how I approach life.”
At Iowa Western, in the fall, they had practice every day, and twice a week they would have two-a-days. They would also lift four times a week in the mornings. Once spring came, it was more relaxed, said Kuhlmann. They lifted weights two to three times a week, had four games a weekend, followed by one midweek game.
In 2016, Iowa Western played in the Junior College World Series.
In the spring of his sophomore year at Iowa Western, one of the assistant coaches at SDSU reached out to Kuhlmann about continuing his baseball career there, and he was interested.
“I had gone on a visit up there after the season was over, and I liked everything SDSU had to offer as far as coaching, facilities, and the city of Brookings itself,” Kuhmann said. He added that Iowa Western, compared to SDSU, was a weird transition for him as far as practicing and games.
“SDSU has a more relaxed approach with practices and games because the school has to follow the NCAA rules where the NJCAA doesn’t have as many rules,” Kuhlmann said.
Practices aren’t as long compared to junior college practices. Mondays were always an off day after a series of three games on the weekend in the spring. They lifted two times a week with an optional lift mixed in there as well.
Traveling has been the toughest challenge since Kuhlmann has been at SDSU.
SDSU takes a charter bus everywhere, and many of their home games have been moved south this season due to all of the snow in Brookings.
“Many road trips get long, and when the games are over on Sundays, we usually don’t arrive back to Brookings until anywhere from 1-4 a.m.,” he said.
Kuhlmann added the schoolwork always has to be done ahead of time as he might only be in class maybe twice a week due to travel. His major is sports and recreation management. He gets homework done on the bus or in the hotel to stay on track with everything. He makes up quizzes and tests once the team gets back from road trips.
Keeping up with schoolwork, and even getting the college experience, has been the hardest part. He’s also had to make lots of sacrifices, missing big events with family and friends.
The best part about his whole experience is the relationships made and creating the memories that will last him a lifetime.
“What I tried to take away from those two years and into today was just trying get 1% better everyday,” Kuhlmann said.
This summer, Kuhlmann is interning with the Sioux Falls Canaries baseball team and will be on the bench helping coach.
“I will have other duties as well before and after games,” he added.
He is also working at D-BAT, which is a baseball facility in Sioux Falls, and will give lessons and help with clinics and camps.
Kuhlmann will be playing with the Sioux Falls Brewers, which is an amateur team.
He added, “I am going to try and play as much as I can until I don’t enjoy it anymore or my body won’t let me.”
Kendra Sexton choose to continue her softball career after high school because it was a sport that she has always loved and wasn’t quite ready for it to be over.
Sexton decided to go to Central College in Pella after she visited the campus because it felt like home. It was a smaller campus and had what she needed to further her education while allowing her to be a student-athlete.
“The difference between college softball and high school is that you are in an extremely more competitive environment,” Sexton said. “Everybody on the team has the same goal, and we always pushed each other to get better.”
During her college career, Sexton played left field/center field and also was a pinch runner.
At Central, her coaches were really great with helping players complete their schoolwork while also playing softball.
“As a freshman, we had to go to study table twice a week for a few hours to help us get used to studying,” she said. “The biggest thing was being able to communicate with your professors and letting them know when you would be gone. They were all really understanding.”
The hardest part of playing college softball for Sexton, was probably waking up at 4:45 a.m. every day in February for practice.
“The first week was never bad because of the excitement of the season starting, but once the third week came along, we were all exhausted,” Sexton said. “Looking back, though, I wouldn’t change anything.”
This season, Central was the American Rivers Conference champs, won the conference tournament, and made the NCAA Division III tournament.
Her favorite part has been all the memories and trips that she has been able to take with her teammates. Every year in the spring, Central plays in a tournament in Tucson, Ariz., for almost two weeks.
Sexton majored in business management and will be going into the family business at Sexton Oil Co. She is also a MVAOCOU softball assistant coach.