SOFTBALL: Mariah Graves set to continue career at Itasca Community College

Mariah Graves didn’t want her softball career to come to an end. So she did something about it.

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Mariah Graves (center) poses with her family after signing to play softball at Itasca Community College during a ceremony held on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

BEMIDJI – Mariah Graves didn’t want her softball career to come to an end. So she did something about it.

The Bemidji High School senior – primarily a pitcher for the Lumberjacks – did her due diligence on collegiate playing options and sent out information to Itasca Community College. The result? She received a chance to continue her playing career, which she made official by signing with Itasca last Wednesday.

“It's a really awesome opportunity for me,” Graves said. “I sent a recruitment form that way, and the coach got back to me. And it just went on from there.”

Graves only recently kick-started her communication with Itasca, initiating contact about a month ago. She wasn’t willing to give up playing softball without a fight.

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Bemidji senior Mariah Graves delivers a pitch during a game against Detroit Lakes on Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Detroit Lakes.
Jared Rubado / Forum News Service

“I wanted to keep playing because it's my sport,” Graves said. “It brings me happiness.”
She considered other schools farther away, but a desire to stay nearer to home landed her in Grand Rapids.


“My cousin went there,” Graves said. “I really liked the community around there. And I liked the coach too. He's really nice and inviting.”

Her head coach at Bemidji, Brad Takkunen, thinks Graves is primed for potential success in college competition – especially in the circle.

“If she can hit her spots pitching, she can be pretty effective,” Takkunen said. “(She) has a pretty good bat on her. She can do some good things there if she is able to focus on that. But more importantly, it's nice to see that she's willing to play ball (in college). And not only that, continue her education as well.”

Now that her future is settled, Graves can focus on finishing out her senior season with the Section 8-4A playoffs right around the corner.

“I wanted to play after high school,” Graves said. “It was just a matter of where and if I got the opportunity. And (Itasca head coach Kyle Erickson) gave me the opportunity, so I'm very excited. Now I have plans in the future, so I can't wait. It was a nice relief once I figured it all out.”

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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