It was Lakota Escott’s freshman year of high school when she first discovered a problem with her knees.
Escott — now a senior at Rochester — dislocated her left knee while playing in a varsity softball game as a freshman. At the doctor’s office, she learned she had oddly-shaped fibulas, or calf bones, in both her legs.
The shape of her fibulas allows her knee caps to unnaturally slide out easier than a normal person’s would. And her knee muscles weren’t strong enough to hold her knee caps in place.
Escott’s injury required surgery and then a 10-month-long rehabilitation process. Months after being fully healed, near the end of her sophomore year, it happened again — only this time to her right knee.
“I wasn’t expecting knee surgeries,” Escott said. “Then the surgeon said I needed it all of a sudden to keep playing softball. It was definitely worth it.”
After another long recovery process, Escott healed again and has been off to the races ever since.
The 5-foot-7 lefty pitched the Warriors to the 2A District 4 quarterfinals as a junior last season, spinning a one-hitter with seven strikeouts in a 14-0 win over Black Hills in the district opener.
This season, Escott and Sadie Knutson are the lone seniors on a Warriors’ team that’s 6-3 overall, so far. Escott pitched nearly every inning of the first four games with Knutson out. Now, they switch back and forth as the dual aces.
“With only two seniors, she’s really stepped up,” Rochester coach Joni Lancaster said of Escott. “She’s been the backbone of our lineup and we go to her when we need someone.”
Lancaster, who’s in her first year coaching the Warriors, has known Escott since Escott was a little girl as Lancaster used to date Escott’s older brother.
“Joni was a big part of my life and was the entire reason I started playing softball,” Escott said.
Lancaster, who was playing softball at Rochester High School at the time, asked then-8-year-old Escott if she’d like to play catch one day. Escott, who was playing multiple sports at the time, then decided she wanted to play softball and be just like Lancaster. The rest is history.
Fast forward to summer 2021 — in between Escott’s junior and senior years. She had gained the interest of a few community college softball programs. The only thing was, none had gotten her attention.
It wasn't until later that summer while playing in a college exposure tournament in Las Vegas that she finally met face-to-face with a program she was interested in.
One of George Fox University’s assistant coaches had watched Escott pitch two innings at the tournament and grabbed one of her profile sheets.
The coach then found Escott at a player-coaches meeting where college coaches can meet and talk to the high school athletes. Escott estimates there were around 100 coaches in attendance, and the one from George Fox introduced herself and set up an official campus visit.
Later that fall, on Nov. 17, Escott made the two and half hour drive to George Fox’s campus in Newberg, Oregon — about 24 miles southwest of Portland.
“It was definitely overwhelming,” Escott said. “It was my first real visit and I met the head coach for the first time. But I really got a feel for the school.”
The Bruins coaches flew down to California the following weekend to watch Escott pitch again in another tournament. They offered her a spot on the team the following week, but she was still unsure at the time — wanted to keep her options open.
On Jan. 9, 2022, she drove down to make another campus visit and meet with the coaches. Five days later, she officially committed.
Escott never believed she’d be playing softball again after having double knee surgeries — let alone earn a roster spot on a university softball team.
“I didn’t think I was going to have two knee surgeries, so I feel like playing now is a big deal,” Escott said. “Being able to play college softball is an even bigger deal.”
Now, she’ll get the chance to test her mettle in the Division III ranks with a Bruins team that has seven Northwest Conference (NWC) Tournament appearances, two conference titles and two NCAA Tournament appearances.
As of April 19, the Bruins are currently second in the NWC with a 30-10 overall record and 22-6 conference record. They’re also on a 10-game winning streak.
“The biggest thing is being able to find a new group of girls,” Escott said. “Excited to get out of my comfort zone and be around people who love softball as much as I do.”