Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post


Softball: Injuries fail to break 'Cats top baserunner's streak

If stealing bases were a crime, Jillian Van Wagnen would be locked up longer than Bernie Madoff.

After a pair of hand injuries cut her first two seasons short, the junior from Lorain, Ohio, blossomed into the Bobcats’ most dangerous baserunner this year, nabbing 22 bags on 24 attempts – Ohio’s best mark since Shalene Petrich swiped 29 in 2007.

“I know as soon as I get on first that I’m going to second,” Van Wagnen said. “That’s just my mindset no matter what.”

During the team’s first tournament her freshman year, Van Wagnen dislocated her pinky finger sliding into third base. The following year, her season came to a premature end after a fastball broke the index finger of the same hand.

She still managed to lead the team with 11 stolen bases while appearing in just 29 of the 52 games. With her history of injury, many might exercise caution along the base paths, but coach Jodi Hermanek said Van Wagnen wouldn’t know how.

“The word hesitation does not exist in Jillian’s vocabulary,” Hermanek said. “…She doesn’t think about her hand, she doesn’t think what could happen. She just thinks about where she needs to get to and she goes hard getting there.”

This season, Van Wagnen worked one-on-one with assistant coach Sharonda McDonald, focusing on improving her explosiveness off the base. McDonald, Texas A&M’s all-time steals leader, said she saw similarities with the speedy center fielder.

“We play the same kind of game so I spend a lot of time with her,” McDonald said. “It’s been fun to watch her progress and really achieve at this level.”

Van Wagnen finished two steals behind Mid-American Conference leader Jessica Richards despite 36 fewer plate appearances and spending the vast majority of the season batting at the bottom of the lineup.

Hermanek said Van Wagnen’s ability to get on base and in scoring position from the nine-hole was a catalyst for her team, especially during its run to the conference tournament finals, where Van Wagnen was named to the all-tournament team.

“The bottom of our lineup kept coming up in moments of success,” Hermanek said. “She got on base for us, she stole bases, and she came through in two-out situations.

Van Wagnen said she took little solace garnering individual accolades in light of the team’s shortcoming, but she is already preparing for next year.

“Stealing bases is kind of my expertise,” Van Wagnen said. “I always tell the coaches, ‘I’m going to lead the nation in stolen bases.’

“You just got to aim high and hope you don’t fall short.”


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH