Erika Trojan saw a softball national championship unfold in front of her eyes in Louisville, Ky., last month.
From hundreds of miles away, Lauren Seegers watched on TV as NCAA Division II Valdosta (Ga.) State beat defending champion UC San Diego, 4-1, for the crown on May 19.
Despite the distance between them, the Prairie Ridge graduates were connected by immense joy at being part of the school’s first softball national title.
“Waiting for that last out was awesome,” said Trojan, a freshman infielder for the No.1-ranked Blazers, who roared to a 58-5 record this season. “It’s what you dreamed about since you were a little girl. All the work we put in really paid off.”
Seegers, a freshman infielder who sat out this season as a medical redshirt, was equally as emotional watching the game.
“I was so proud,” she said. “I wasn’t part of the playing experience, but I was still part of a great team and a great organization. It was really an honor to be a part of it.”
While Trojan played 12 games this season as the primary backup at every infield position, Seegers healed from a second surgery on her left knee in the past two years.
Both athletes, who will play on the same team this summer with the Illinois Thunder, are planning for even bigger roles next season at Valdosta State, which loses eight seniors from the championship team.
Trojan, who worked at second base and third base this season while batting .258, said she plans to move into a starting job at second next season.
“I played second and shortstop in high school,” Trojan said. “I’m probably most comfortable [at second] than anywhere else.”
Trojan said she will spend the summer working on her footwork around second in preparation for her return to school in August, along with spending plenty of time sharpening her offensive skills.
“My defense has really improved,” she said. “It’s a huge part of the game. I’m going to work a lot on hitting.”
In contrast, Seegers will focus mainly on defense this summer.
A powerful run producer who batted nearly .500 last season at Prairie Ridge, Seegers was asked by VSU coach Thomas Macera to work at first base this summer to compete for a starting job next season.
“It’s a little scary,” Seegers said. “I’ve been catching my whole life. (First base) is a position I’ve never played before. But I’m definitely excited.”
Seegers also has reason to smile about her health. Her left knee, in which she suffered a “bad tear” of the meniscus last year, suffered another small tear before this season.
Despite a second surgery and missing the season at VSU, Seegers said she has been cleared to play this summer with no limitations.
“It bothered me because I was so excited to play this season,” Seegers said. “But I’m feeling pretty good. (The knee) is not bothering me at all.”
Though Seegers admitted the weather was a major draw to attend Valdosta State, both players said keeping the Blazers atop the national softball stage will provide plenty of motivation to improve their games.
“I’m really glad I made the decision to come here,” Seegers said.
Trojan, who transferred from D-I Iowa State, agreed.
“I really wanted to play somewhere where I had a chance to win something,” she said. “I think I made the right choice.”
Carthage golfers on par: Three local golfers at D-III Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., placed in the top 10 this spring at the men’s College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin tournament, helping the team finish second.
Sophomore Brad Hyland (Prairie Ridge) closed with a final-round 68 in the four-round event to finish with a 291 total, 10 shots behind the tournament champion. Junior Donnie Langland (Jacobs) was sixth with a four-round total of 302. Sophomore Josh Kopka (Jacobs) closed with a final-round 73 to place seventh (305).
Crystal Lake Central grad Riley Bauman, a Carthage sophomore, tied for 23rd with a 320 total.
Kopka was chosen the team’s MVP at its postseason awards event after compiling a 77.9 stroke average and finishing in the top 10 in four events. Langland had 10 top-10 finishes this season and led the team with a 75 stroke average. He was the CCIW Player of the Week twice this spring.
Hyland’s CCIW score set a school record for a four-round event. He was second on the team with a 76.4 stroke average and had seven top-10 finishes. Bauman (78.4) had five top-10 finishes this season.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com and check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com.