OSHKOSH, Wis. (NBC 26) — Whether it's on the diamond or off, it seems Hannah Ritter is always smiling.
"My mom was saying the same thing the other day," Ritter laughed. "I don't think I smile that much!"
Hey, you'd probably be smiling too if you could hit a softball as well as she can.
The senior from Marengo, Ill. is the most prolific hitter in UW-Oshkosh history.
Last week, she notched career hit No. 198, becoming the program's all-time hits leader despite losing out on much of her freshman year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"She is as good as anybody in the country at hitting a softball," Titans coach Scott Beyer said. "I've never coached a player like Hannah, to be honest with you."
"We've coached players that have gotten hot and can hit .500 for a month or something like that," Beyer added. "But I've just never had a kid who can sustain the success that she's had over her time here."
Ritter hit .469 as a sophomore, .500 as a junior and is now up to .500 again after a 3-3 performance in the Titans' NCAA Regional victory over Luther College (Iowa) on Thursday.
Through it all, the hits record was never on her mind. In fact, she didn't find out about it until last week.
"I knew going into conference tournament and that's only because the school did an article and they briefly mentioned it," Ritter laughed.
"The first day (of the WIAC Tournament) I didn't have a fabulous day at the plate," she said. "And I think it was because I was thinking about that kind of stuff and putting pressure on myself."
The next day, though, she got it. And ever since, she's been nearly perfect - batting 9-10 over her last three games.
"When I think, it's not the best for me at the plate," Ritter said. "So being able to calm my mind and put into perspective that softball could be done for me soon... that helped."
After helping the Titans reach the Division III College World Series in 2021, she has her sights set on a return to cap off her career.
"Yeah, that's the goal!" Ritter said.
But more than the wins, the records and any potential championship, Ritter said she values her college experience the most; a perspective that perfectly embodies what Division III sports are all about.
"This is just a moment and it's not everything," she said. "It's not who we are as people. We're doing this for fun."
The Titans beat Luther 5-4 Thursday, sending them into the winners' bracket of their NCAA regional. They play Concordia (Wisconsin) at 11:00 a.m. Friday with a berth in the championship on the line.
.@UWOSoftball1 is moving on! The @UWOshkoshTitans hung on to win the first game of their NCAA Tournament regional this afternoon.— Brandon Kinnard (@brandonkinnard) May 18, 2023
All-time hits leader @hannahritter32 and @garceau_abby both with big games as the Titans beat Luther 5-4. pic.twitter.com/DM7klZv4XQ
Due to COVID, Ritter was granted two extra years of eligibility. However, after earning her degree, she said she plans on ending her college career after this season.
This summer, the communication studies major will head to Austin, Texas for a job at a summer camp for children. Her dream job is to one day become a social worker.