A lot has happened to Rebecca Freeman in the past four years. She has laid the foundation for a career in social work, got engaged to her high school sweetheart and became one of the top hitters in the history of Marist College softball.
The latter should come as no surprise to area residents. As all-state performers, Freeman and Lauren Fischer (now at Seton Hall) were arguably the top pitcher-catcher combination in the history of Colonial Valley Conference softball for four years. Freeman was the catcher in that tandem, and her defensive skills were on par with her offense.
Nothing changed in college.
On April 19 at Boston University, Freeman became just the fourth Red Fox player to collect 200 career hits. On Feb. 26 in Macon, Georgia, Freeman tied two NCAA records with three home runs and 11 RBI in a 14-10 win over Savannah State. She has been a full-time starter her entire career. Over her first three years, she hit .306, .356, and .324 for a career average of .332. As of April 24 in this, her senior year, she was hitting .308 with five home runs and 29 RBI.
What she takes the most pride in is that, with just four strikeouts, Freeman was among the nation’s top 30 in batters who were toughest to fan.
“I’m probably proudest of the consistency of making good, solid contact,” she said. “If I end the season with around four strikeouts, it means I made contact almost every at bat. At least when I do get out, I get out in a good way, the contact swing is the best swing. I still hear so many hitting coaches say that in my mind.”
While amassing all those offensive numbers, Freeman remained solid behind the plate. And it hasn’t been easy. After catching only Fischer for virtually all her life, Freeman has to catch five different hurlers this year.
As is her custom, she accepted the job with good humor.
“I never saw that whole obstacle coming,” Freeman said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Uh oh, what is this?’ We have some lefties, one of them throws 68 miles an hour, one throws 58 but has the craziest spin ever. Catching all these different kind of people was kind of hard at first. But they all bring good traits, and they’re all really good.”
And being the intelligent receiver that she is, Freeman gets the most out of each of them.
“Becca is such a talented catcher that handling all five types of pitchers is not a struggle for her,” sophomore hurler Megan Beiermeister said. “She has managed to create close bonds with each member of the staff, making game time situations comfortable and natural. Pitching to her is not only enjoyable but beneficial for myself along with the entire pitching staff. She is encouraging, talented, and very knowledgeable about the game, making her unstoppable behind the plate.”
That was certainly the case for Beiermeister, a Kinnelon High graduate who went 12-1 with a 2.62 ERA as a freshman, and who is 8-4/2.74 this year.
“Becca helped me reach my possible potential; I could not have had a successful freshman year without her,” Beiermeister said. “She was so welcoming and made myself, along with the rest of the freshman class, feel at home immediately after arriving at Marist. Becca definitely took me under her wing, creating a bond not only as teammate but a lasting friendship I hope will continue in the years to come. Becca is a remarkable player and teammate and the most passionate softball player I have ever gotten the pleasure of playing with.”
Players need that passion in Division I athletics, as the time devoted to their sport leaves precious few hours for anything else outside of academics. Freeman calls the experience “definitely super intense” but added, “I think if I wasn’t busy every second of it, college wouldn’t be the same.” She is helped by the fact coach Joe Ausanio is sensitive to the players’ academics needs and responsibilities.
“I have an internship, and he’s super understanding and he made the experience a lot easier,” Freeman said. “I know some other schools aren’t as fortunate as we are to have a coach as understanding. The whole thing was definitely tough, but I would definitely do it again.”
‘That was probably the highlight of my sports life. Nothing will ever top that.’
–Freeman, on her home run against Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament
It’s not hard to see why, as judging by her statistics, softball was never really a struggle. Freeman felt that because of her experiences playing travel ball in high school, there was not much of an adjustment when it came to hitting college pitchers.
“It was really kind of the same, because now you’re playing all those girls you played against that were being recruited to go to college,” Freeman said. “I want to say in some ways being in college made it easier to adjust because you’re surrounded by such a culture of everyone trying really trying to do the same thing.
“In high school, it’s kind of different. You’re trying to get recruited; most people on your high school team aren’t going to play in college, and you’re just trying to pull together. But everyone here is like the best of the best, and you’re all just really motivated.”
Now that she is a senior, much of that motivation comes from the veteran catcher.
“Becca is an awesome leader whose passion for the game inspires each member of the team to give all they have into every effort they make on the field,” Beiermeister said. “She makes the game fun while maintaining a focus on doing whatever we need to do to win.”
Winning is something the Red Foxes did at impressive rate last year as they went 45-13, won the MAAC Tournament championship and reached the NCAA Tournament.
“That was crazy, that was epic,” Freeman said.
It got crazier and epic-er. Their first tournament game was in Knoxville against host Tennessee in a game on ESPN. So what does Freeman do her first NCAA at-bat? How about a two-run homer to give Marist a 2-0 lead in a game it eventually lost.
“That was probably the highlight of my sports life,” she said. “Nothing will ever top that.”
But a few things came close this year, starting with her record-tying efforts against Savannah in which she hit two grand slams, a two-run homer and an RBI single. Oh, and her second grand slam was a walk-off.
“When it happened it was like the craziest day of my life,” Freeman said. “Joe was in disbelief, the whole team was like ‘How did this happen?’ Joe wasn’t sure what the (RBI) record was, he Googled the record, saw I tied it, only two or three other girls did it, and the last was in 1996. I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s crazy.’ Then later I read an article that said it tied a record for single-game home runs, too.”
As of late April, Freeman had 21 career homers but would never call herself a home-run hitter. In fact, she made up a new word to drive that point home.
“I’m definitely not a tryer for home runs,” Becca said. “Those swings (against Savannah) were base-hit swings. Somehow, the ball left the park for whatever reason. I’m not really sure what was going on that day. I guess I was seeing it well, but I was totally trying for base hits the whole time.”
The swings are dwindling to a precious few as Marist was hoping to make another run to a MAAC title. The Red Foxes were 26-17 overall and 6-6 in conference play with two weeks left in the regular season.
After that, Freeman will return home to be with her fiancée, former Ravens football player Nathan Kubiak. The two got engaged on Valentine’s Day after maintaining a long-distance relationship.
“I know it was crazy, but we managed to do it,” she said. “They say it’s really hard to do that, but somehow we made it. The engagement was kind of casual in his kitchen. He leaves to go get ice cream, then all of a sudden, he comes back with a ring. I was surprised, but I said yes.”
There is lots to do before the wedding, as Freeman’s next move is to get a job in her major in order to save money to pursue her master’s degree within two years. She is majoring in social work, and her aforementioned internship is at a skilled nursing facility. Freeman got the urge to want to help people through her mom, Sue, a physical therapist; and her dad, Jim, a police officer.
“I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” said Freeman, who already has some job interviews lined up. “I want to be in the helping field, and I wanted to work with kids at the same time. The more I looked into and talked to people at college, I was like ‘Oh social work.’ I took the intro class and really decided I liked it.
“I definitely want to be a clinical social work. But my goal to be content with life would be to be a school social worker; that would be it for me. That would be awesome.”
And while social work is in her future, the present includes being social director for the Red Foxes.
“She has an amazing humor, an ever bigger heart, and is a pleasure to be with on and off the field,” Beiermeister said. “Becca has an irreplaceable spot on the Marist College softball team and will be missed deeply by each player along with our coaching staff.”
And putting those sparkling offensive and defensive exploits aside, that’s the kind of legacy Freeman can truly be proud of.