Bases-loaded jam leads to nine-year relationship for DePaul duo


Sophomore pitcher Natalie Halvorson winds up for a pitch during DePaul’s Feb. 9 game against Green Bay at the Total Control Sports Invitational. Halvorson leads the team both in wins and in ERA so far this season, with a record of 13-5 and an ERA of 3.41. (Jonathan Aguilar | The DePaulia)

DePaul’s associate head softball coach Joe Yegge’s first memory of Natalie Halvorson was when she was at the state tournament in eighth grade.

“She came in bases loaded to pitch against Kendyl Lindaman, who is one of the premiere hitters in college softball now, Yegge said. The pitching coach went, ‘Do you know what you just did? ‘And I vividly remember saying, ‘Well we’re going to find out if Natalie is any good or not.’” 

Halvorson was good—so good that she got a ground ball out and got them out of the inning. But this was just the beginning of the journey for Halvorson and Yegge, as they remain a duo nine years later.

“I would consider him almost an uncle to me,” Halvorson said. “I’ve been with him for so long.”

Their softball journey began at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids. While most players and coaches would part ways following graduation, Halvorson and Yegge continued on at Kirkwood Community College. Off the mound, the two spent holidays together, with Yegge quickly becoming a family friend of the Halvorsons.

When Yegge began at DePaul in 2018, he discussed goals for the upcoming season with head coach Tracie Adix-Zins and Halvorson’s name inevitably came up.

“We were talking about what we needed,” Yegge said. “And I said, ‘Well, there’s Natalie.’”

Yegge chuckles as he recalls Halvorson telling him that she was staying in Chicago whether or not she joined DePaul’s team after she made the trek up her apartment’s three flights of stairs with her couch.

Shortly after, she committed to DePaul as a sophomore—with her couch nestled safely in her apartment.

“If I didn’t take the job, Natalie wasn’t coming here,” Yegge said. “I think Tracie said she was going to try to get here anyways but I was like, ‘No she’s staying with me.’” 

Adix-Zins says that the situation is especially unique for her, as she has never encountered a coach-player duo that has lasted for so long. 

“This is actually my first time with this,” Adix-Zins said. “You’re really going to ever see that in the state of Iowa because they play softball in the summer and everybody else in high school plays in the fall or spring.”

Even though the duo is together at DePaul, they don’t work as closely anymore because Adix-Zins handles pitchers.

“Working with someone else more with pitching allows us to have a different relationship,” Halvorson said. “I think he doesn’t have to worry about what I’m doing as much, and I don’t have to worry about what he’s doing as much.”

Despite this the two remain close, as Yegge says they still talk every day—which has helped Halvorson’s transition on the team—especially with her relationship with Adix-Zins.

“Since Joe has that relationship with Natalie he can get after her a little bit more where I’m still building that relationship with Natalie,” Adix-Zins said. “It makes things easier at times because he is like a second dad to her. It doesn’t really impact our team, which is nice, because it’s not that they treat each other any differently. It’s just a unique communication between them.”

The duration of their relationship has created not only culminated in countless successes, but a variety of fond memories and sense of deep appreciation between the two.

“The thing about Natalie is that she is such a sweetheart,” Yegge said. “One time she was pitching in high school and hit a kid. She literally tried to walk across the field in the middle of the game and apologize to her.”

Halvorson says that Yegge has taught her countless things that have aided in her success on and off the mound. Aside from these lessons Yegge provides, Halvorson also appreciates the colorful “one liners” he says on and off the field.

“Last year at Kirkwood, we were playing a not-so-great game and there was a girl on the outfield on our team that tripped,” Halvorson said. “He turned to the umpire and went, ‘Hey Blue call off the snipers.’”   

Although it seems their journey is far from over, Halvorson said she will always appreciate all Yegge has done for her.

“In high school, he believed in me which was something that I needed,” Halvorson said. “He let me come play at Kirkwood for him and Kirkwood was his baby. He developed into a great division two junior college program. He took me here to DePaul. He’s provided me with so many opportunities and I will forever be grateful for that.”