The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Secret weapon on EIU softball team shows against TSU

Senior outfielder Aryn Henke put up three RBIs against Tennessee State to help the Panthers win 4-3. Three RBIs is her most in a game this season. (Sia DeyKoontz)

There is a player on Eastern’s softball team responsible for a piece of the team’s recent success in the 2024 season.  You will not find her lighting up this stat sheet, nor will you see her making flashy plays.  

Instead, this player works almost in the background. She has picked up catching to support the team in 2024 while also performing well at her old spot of left field. She also produces at the plate, batting a 0.286.   

Regarding the leadership that comes with being a senior, Aryn Henke is not your typical commander. She won’t get loud in the dugout or give the big speech when the team is down.  

But the left fielder is still a leader, said head coach Tara Archibald.   

“She’s not a super vocal leader, but she will say the right things at the right time,” Archibald said. “She kind of leads by example and leads with her competitive drive.”  

Henke was given an opportunity to lead by example late in Sunday’s game against Tennessee State University, the last match in a split series. The score was 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, and freshman Emily Konkel was in scoring position.  

Henke was up at bat. All the senior had to do was put the ball in play.   

And put the ball in play she did.  

Henke hit a grounder to shortstop which allowed Konkel to score and break the tie.   

“I was just trying to do what I could for the team,” Henke said.  

The inning wrapped up with Eastern leading 4-3. Freshman pitcher McKenzie Oslanzi closed the game with a scoreless seventh inning, giving Eastern the win and putting the Panthers at 11-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference.  

That wasn’t the only time Henke helped the team on Sunday. She had batted in two other runners in the first inning. The three RBIs against TSU were a season-high for the senior.  

“Aryn really stepped up for us today on both sides of the ball,” Archibald said. “I was just thrilled to see her do that. Maybe [she] didn’t get the start of the season that she wanted, but she’s been putting in the work. To see her be rewarded for that has been fun to watch.”  

The first half of Henke’s senior season had been tough, but the turnaround is in full swing. Before the 17-game mark, Henke only had four hits. In the last 16 games, she’s had 12.  

Henke’s turnaround was well-timed for EIU softball. The team is in first place in the OVC, though its lead is slim. The University of Southern Indiana is one game behind the Panthers.  

The Panthers will have a chance to distance themselves in the OVC rankings Saturday, as they will be playing the Screaming Eagles.  

As a senior who was on the OVC champion team in 2023, Henke wants to do more than just win the regular season. She wants to win back-to-back OVC tournaments, she said. 

“After winning last year, that feeling was awesome,” Henke said. “Doing that again would be great and even maybe getting a conference [win] and tournament [win].”  

Her role as a mentor for the team is also important. Seven of the 20 players on the softball team can graduate in 2024, with six being seniors and one being a graduate student. Archibald noted how vital it is for seniors to build up the underclassmen.  

“[The seniors’] leadership and the way they lead by example is huge for the future of our program,” Archibald said.  

According to Archibald, Henke brings a necessary energy to the team.   

“I always say, when Aryn’s at her best, she brings competitive fire,” Archibald said. “She’s a fiery competitor, and the team feeds off that, for sure.”  

 

Aidan Cusack can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]. 

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