Senior shortstop continuing success

Sophomore+infielder+Bailey+O%27Dell+swings+away+in+a+game+on+Sept.+13%2C+2013+against+Heartland+Community+at+Williams+Field.++The+Panthers+took+the+doubleheader+by+a+score+of+1-0+and+10-2.
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Senior shortstop continuing success

Sophomore infielder Bailey O'Dell swings away in a game on Sept. 13, 2013 against Heartland Community at Williams Field.  The Panthers took the doubleheader by a score of 1-0 and 10-2.

Sophomore infielder Bailey O'Dell swings away in a game on Sept. 13, 2013 against Heartland Community at Williams Field. The Panthers took the doubleheader by a score of 1-0 and 10-2.

Jason Howell

Sophomore infielder Bailey O'Dell swings away in a game on Sept. 13, 2013 against Heartland Community at Williams Field. The Panthers took the doubleheader by a score of 1-0 and 10-2.

Jason Howell

Jason Howell

Sophomore infielder Bailey O'Dell swings away in a game on Sept. 13, 2013 against Heartland Community at Williams Field. The Panthers took the doubleheader by a score of 1-0 and 10-2.

Sean Hastings, staff reporter

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When Senior Bailey O’Dell played travel softball when she was younger she would have 8 a.m. games every weekend in Los Angeles that was four hours away from where she lived.

“I’d have to be there an hour and a half before, so I’d have to leave at two or three in the morning just to get there,” O’Dell said. “It was a lot of traveling back then, but it paid off in the end.”

O’Dell is just one of two seniors on the team this year with the other one being Hannah Cole.

O’Dell is the starting shortstop for the Panthers and has been since her freshman year, and hasn’t played any other position since she was 13 years old.

With her being a senior, she is one of the leaders of the team and is always there to help the younger players, especially the freshman when they need it.

O’Dell said she was in their shoes once before too, so she knows what it is like to be a freshman with getting homesick, and adjusting to college.

“I just try to relate to them back to when I was their age,” O’Dell said. “If they ever have questions, I’ll answer them.”

A player that O’Dell has made an impact on is freshman pitcher Jessica Wireman.

“I have learned from her that you don’t have to be a huge player (size wise) to be able to compete with the best out there,” Wireman said. “I am not the strongest or the biggest out there and by watching Bailey and seeing her compete it shows me that I don’t have to be big to be the best.”

Second-year head coach Angie Nicholson also loves the leadership that Bailey gives for the team.

“Bailey is a great kid, She works very hard and is a quiet leader,” Nicholson said. “She does all the right things and is a great role model.”

In her freshman year O’Dell led the team with a .351 batting average, which included 66 hits and 23 of which were extra base hits.

Bailey O'Dell

Jason Howell
Bailey O’Dell

Her success on the field that year earned her “OVC Freshman of the Year.” She also led the OVC in doubles with 19.

She continued her success into sophomore year, starting all 50 games at shortstop and batting .313 and added 10 more doubles and six home runs.

“Bailey does a great job for us at the plate,” Nicholson said. “For the most part she sees the ball very well and usually when she makes contact, it’s for multiple bases. I feel very confident when she is at the plate that she is about to make things happen for us.”

When O’Dell is at the plate she tries to not think about anything.

Something that O’Dell will do at the plate is sing her walk up song “The Downfall of us all” in her head to keep her relaxed.

Since her freshman year, O’Dell said her biggest improvement was finding her comfort zone.

“I feel this year, this is the most confident, I just feel good about where I’m at,” O’Dell said.

What helped O’Dell get into her comfort zone were the 2014 seniors.

She said that Carly Willert and Ashleigh Westover were two girls that she always looked up to.

“They helped me relax,” O’Dell said.

This past weekend O’Dell and the rest of the Panthers competed down in Louisiana where they faced off against teams like No. 19 LSU and No. 9 Louisiana-Lafayette.

Even though they were playing the ranked teams, O’Dell thought of it as just another game.

“I was just thinking ‘it’s another team who cares what the jersey says,’” O’Dell said.

She said that you can’t go in worrying about the jerseys saying LSU and Louisiana-Lafayette, and you have to think of it as any other team because you might face a pitcher like that in a conference game.

Over the weekend O’Dell hit .462, with six hits in 13 at-bats, two of them being doubles and one home run. She also added two RBI’s.

O’Dell, who is majoring in Kinesiology and sports studies starting playing softball at eight years old when a couple of family friends convinced her to come out and play rec ball.

“I never played softball and they got me to try out and ever since then I’ve been playing,” O’Dell said. “And the next year I started playing travel ball.”

Those two quit playing after that year but then she met her best friend Taylor Wright and continued to play with her.

“I had a classmate who was at the same tryout for the same team as me, and I had just moved there so I didn’t really know anyone so we kind of just became friends” O’Dell said. “So then ever since then I’ve been playing ball with her.”

O’Dell contributes a lot of her success to her high school coach Dean Gregory at Buchanan high school in Clovis, Calif.

“I still go visit him now on my breaks,” O’Dell said. “I can call him up and say ‘hey come hit me some ground balls’ and he’ll be there in a heartbeat. He’s always been a really good supporter for me throughout my career.”

O’Dell has always known since she played travel ball that she wanted to play softball in college, therefore she did not play any other sports in high school.

She said once you start playing travel ball at an older age, the whole point is to get recruited so she stayed focused with softball.

O’Dell was considering go to the University of Washington and the University of California, Davis, but knew Eastern was the best choice.

“When I came here, I just knew,” O’Dell said.

She would add that people always ask her why she came all the way to Illinois from California, and she said she has trouble answering because there were so many reasons.

“The girls were great, it was such a family atmosphere,” O’Dell said. “I’ve been to Illinois before for a tournament and I’ve always liked it, there’s no words for it, I just love it.”

During her time at Eastern, O’Dell’s most memorable moment in softball was winning OVC her sophomore year.

“That’s something that’s always going to stick with me.”

Once O’Dell finishes her time here at Eastern she plans on going back home to California and attend Fresno State University and hopefully get into their physical therapy program and become a physical therapist.

O’Dell and the rest of the Panthers will head to Auburn on Friday to compete in the Auburn Tiger Invitational.

Sean Hastings is a staff reporter and you can reach him at 581-2812 or at [email protected].