August 21, 2017

Building on Superb Final Season for Tiger Softball, Star Pitcher Klausner Earns Gold at Maccabiah Games

UPLIFTING EXPERIENCE: Claire Klausner gets carried off the field by her U.S. teammates after they won the gold medal in softball at the Maccabiah Games in Israel earlier this summer. The triumph capped off a superb year for the recently graduated Princeton University star who was named the 2017 Ivy Pitcher of the Year in her senior season after she helped the Tigers win their second straight league title. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

Over the course of her senior season this spring with the Princeton University softball team, pitching ace Claire Klausner rose to the occasion under playoff pressure.

In the best-of-three Ivy League Championship Series against Harvard, Klausner pitched a six-hit shutout as the Tigers prevailed 1-0 in the opener on the way to a series sweep.

Nearly two weeks later, Klausner starred in defeat as the Tigers fell 3-0 at fourth-ranked Florida State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Klausner went six innings, giving up eight hits with a strikeout and a walk.

“That was a highlight of my career, the start against Florida State, it was definitely a great game,” said Klausner, a 5’7 native of Stanford, Calif. who was named the 2017 Ivy Pitcher of the Year, going 7-2 with a 3.03 ERA in league contests with an overall record of 11-7 and a 3.70 ERA.

“We did way better than we were expecting to. As a pitcher, we talked before the game about just trying to make it once through the lineup. I ended up doing much better than that; it was definitely a memorable weekend.”

Over her four years at Princeton, Klausner got better and better on and off the field.

“I matured a lot pitching-wise and softball-wise,” said Klausner. “I had a lot more confidence and just played with more ease. I think the biggest difference was I learned how to balance a lot of things and prioritize really well school-wise. I got more efficient, figuring out what I need to do and how to best do it, so I grew a lot.”

Displaying that confidence this summer, Klausner came up big to help the U.S. squad earn the gold medal at the Maccabiah Games last month.

Getting recruited for the team by Princeton assistant coach Nicole Arias, the U.S. head coach who helped the Americans to gold as a player in each of the last two Maccabiah Games in 2009 and 2013, Klausner emerged as the ace for the U.S. pitching staff.

The U.S. team, which was comprised of current college players and some recent grads, ended up dominating the round-robin competition that also included Canada and Israel. After losing its opener to Canada, the U.S. went 5-0 in the rest of its round-robin games.

Before even taking the circle in the competition, Klausner made some indelible memories.

“This was my first trip to Israel, it was amazing and so much fun,” said Klausner, noting that the softball team was based in Tel Aviv for the competition.

“We were touring the first week in a program called ‘Israel Connect.’ It was all of the U.S. Maccabi athletes, 900 of us; they took us to all of the big places, like old city Jerusalem, Masada, and the Holocaust Museum.”

Advancing straight to the gold medal game with its 5-1 mark in the round-robin portion of the competition, the U.S. was primed when it took the diamond to play Canada in the finale.

“We had beaten Canada twice before that, so we were pretty confident but because we lost the first game to them, we couldn’t take anything for granted,” said Klausner, who had three of the team’s first five wins. “We were definitely taking it pretty seriously.”

As the gold medal game started, Klausner faced a serious challenge when she took the circle.

“I had a blood blister on my finger and I was battling through that the whole game,” said Klausner.

“It was painful, I would go back to the dugout and they would put on New-Skin (liquid bandage) every inning.”

Undeterred by the injury, Klausner allowed just a run over five innings as the U.S. rolled to an 8-1 win and earned the gold medal.

“It was really cool to wear a jersey that said U.S.A. and to represent our country,” said Klausner.

“It was a really memorable experience, the medal ceremony and getting our medals. Everyone in the tournament was so supportive.”

In the wake of her international success, Klausner is contemplating changing uniforms in a bid to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games as softball was added to the program after being removed for 2012 and 2016.

“There is potential idea of getting an Israeli citizenship and going to their national team and trying to qualify for the Olympics in 2020,” said Klausner, who is working for a year at Harlem RBI, an East Harlem-based nonprofit that helps low-income city children thrive through baseball and softball, and then moving on to Bain and Company for a position at the management consulting firm.

“I am not sure if that will really happen but two of the girls on the team are thinking of doing that as well.”