Double play: A tale of two sisters

SOFTBALL ATHLETE PROFILE:

The best possible catching mate for a pitcher would be their identical twin. For freshmen Kaitlyn and Kristen Hooper it is a reality. “We read each others’ minds,” Kristen said.

Kristen is the catcher. “It was something I always wanted to do but I was small, so I never put much thought into it.” At age 14 she strapped on the shin guards, slung the chest protector over her shoulders, and pulled the mask over her face for the first time; “I tried it, liked it, so I kept doing it,” she said.

Her twin, Kaitlyn, is the pitcher.

She started pitching even younger, around age 8.

During games in high school Kristen called the pitches, with input from Kaitlyn. At times they could be two or three pitches ahead of the batter. A game plan could be set and executed without improvisation.

The Hooper twins are from Patriot High School in Riverside, where both lettered three years in softball. Kaitlyn received all-league honors for the Sunkist League twice, second team as a sophomore and first team as a senior. In her final year in high school she pitched 55 2/3 innings only allowing 52 hits, and throwing seven complete games in eight starts. She says she loves the pressure of pitching. “Everything is on you. You have to do your part for everyone else to do theirs,” Kaitlyn said.

Coach Jessica Rapoza approached the twins about playing for the Dons. “When I first met the Hoopers, they ran marathons. That was the main reason for recruiting them. They had all the obvious talents, and great attitudes, but it takes something special to run marathons in high school,” she said. “They are hard working, energetic, and a joy to coach … The best work ethic I have ever seen.”

Kristen has done the majority of catching for the Dons this season, starting 13 games and playing in all 18 games so far. Although Kaitlyn has yet to pitch for the Dons this year her gifts have never been questioned. She has started eight games in the outfield and played in 14 games overall.

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When looking for colleges they agreed that if one received an offer to play elsewhere, they should take it.

Finishing each others’ sentences, they added that when the coach at SAC recruited them, “It happened to be both of us — we can both go there, so lets go.”

Softball runs in the family. Their parents, Clint and Karen Hooper, coached Kaitlyn, Kristen, and their sister Kelly on their youth league teams.

They wanted the full college experience, deciding to move from their parents’ house and take on their own responsibilities.

The twins moved in with Kelly, who lives in Orange County.

Kaitlyn and Kristen are the third set of twins playing sports for the Dons for the 2010-2011 school year.

The soccer team fielded forwards Isabel and Zulema Chavez from Segerstrom High School. The volleyball team played right side hitter Jazmin Barrera and middle blocker Melina Barrera from Saddleback High School.

The duo would love to play together as long as possible. But for the future their main focus is academics.

Kristen is a nursing major with aspirations of becoming a cardiovascular nurse. Kaitlyn is a kinesiology major aiming for a doctorate in the subject.

The two are undecided on where to transfer after college, but both want to stay in southern California.At 5 foot 4 inches tall the twins may not be prototypical athletes, but they have something else on their side. Maybe identical twins complement each other. “In one word,” Coach Rapoza said, “they are ideal.”TWIN ENGINES

Three things you should know about the Hoopers

  • Kristen has a plate and seven screws in her left elbow. During her junior year in high school she was hit by a pitch.
  • Neither Kaitlyn nor Kristen wear batting gloves.
  • Kaitlyn listens to country music including Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney.

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Kristen batter up
Kristen batter up, shas started 13 games as freshman for the Dons.

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