It’s the bottom of the ninth, extra innings in the shoreline conference championship and there are two outs. Kayla Votto is at the plate, and her sister Courtney takes her lead off of third base. Kayla lines a pitch to right field, driving Courtney across the plate and winning the game.
Four years later, the two sisters are reunited on the softball field, hoping for more late-game heroics for Keene State College.
Kayla, a junior who is in her third season as an Owl, plays second-base or shortstop, and has been joined by a familiar face 90 feet away from her over at third or first: her sister, Courtney, who is in her first year with the team.
Hailing from Connecticut, the Votto sisters have both been playing since their days of tee-ball, and have been sharing the field through the years of their youth and travel leagues, and even high school. Now the two are back on the diamond together. Kayla said that the two years without her sister on the field with her were a bit of an adjustment period.
“It wasn’t a huge adjustment, but it was difficult not seeing my sister every day on the softball field,” Kayla said.
The two are back together, and with that comes the good and bad sides of playing sports with a sibling.
According to Courtney, if they were to let the competition turn into sibling bickering, it would have a negative influence on not just them, but their teammates as well.
“That affects our game; it affects their game. It affects everyone around us if we don’t get along,” Courtney said.
However, the two said that they don’t let it get to that point.
“We get in arguments, but they’re resolved like that. We don’t let it affect our game,” Courtney said.
Still, the sibling rivalry is there and drives the Votto’s to play better.
“We motivate each other. If Courtney is doing really well, I’m like ‘ugh, my younger sister is doing better than me’,” Kayla said.
Kayla, who is currently a captain for the Owls, according to the KSC athletics website, has a .283 batting average and a fielding percentage of just over .900. Kayla has had high praise for her younger sister this far into Courtney’s rookie season.
“She’s doing really well. She’s impressed me a lot and I think she’s impressed a lot of people,” Kayla said. “Courtney’s defense on the field is just unbelievable. She acts like she’s been here for three or four years as a college softball player.”
Courtney, who comes to Keene after two years as captain of her high school softball team, has been able to knock in nine RBIs and cross home plate five times so far in her rookie season. Courtney also said that having her older sister at KSC has made the transition to college ball a little easier.
“Knowing all the teammates and her friends made me a lot more comfortable coming here,” Courtney said.
Their father, Ron Votto, who has also been coaching them since they first started playing, said he sees his daughters as two completely different players. He noted that Courtney has more power than her older sister, but that Kayla is more capable on the basepaths. Ironically, those attributes are what the sisters said they want to incorporate into their own skill sets.
“I want her [Courtney’s] power,” Kayla said.
“Definitely her [Kayla’s] speed. She’s so fast,” Courtney said.
Both noted that their father Ron had a large influence on them both on and off the softball field, as he was critical of their performances and pushed them to be their very best. However, Ron said that even when one didn’t have the best of games, the other would be there to help their sister get over the hump.
“The two of them would really have each other’s back. If one made an error, the other would be there to pick her up. If one struck out, the other would be there to say ‘hey, you’ll get ‘em next time.’ They’ve always had that dynamic, even though the two of them didn’t see eye-to-eye all the time as sisters,” Ron said.
Their father also said that being able to see his daughters’ hard work take them both to Keene State and being able to watch them from the stands is why he was so hard on them.
“There’s no better feeling than that,” Ron said.
Jacob Barrett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org