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EKU, NKU Senior Softball Players Discuss Uncertainty Amid Pandemic

courtesy Corey Rush
Eastern Kentucky University senior softball pitcher, Mollie Paulick was named OVC pitcher of the week twice this season.

In early March, Ava Lawson, senior, and center fielder for Northern Kentucky University’s softball team and full disclosure, my niece, was leading her team in home runs for the year. She showed me a video one of the dads took of her hitting her 6th home run of the year.

Twenty–one-year-old Lawson is the student representative to the NCAA for all sports in the Horizon League. She said all spring sports were cut short because of the pandemic.  NKU’s softball team was in Florida getting ready for the next tournament game when the season was suspended.

“After the game is when we were kind of told that our season would be suspended indefinitely. We didn’t know yet that it was canceled but we all kind of knew. It hit us all pretty hard. We were all pretty upset,” said Lawson.

Lawson said she’s had an amazing experience as NKU’s  center fielder all four years.  She said one of the most upsetting things about the season coming to an abrupt halt was how hard she and the other seniors had worked. “Nothing was going to come of it . The season was just going to cut right there,” reported Lawson. 

Credit courtesy Clifton Whitmer
Northern Kentucky University softball team greets senior and center fielder Ava Lawson as she crosses the plate after a home run.

Northern Kentucky University head softball coach Kathryn Gleason said she had 10 seniors this year. She felt all the pieces were in place to win the Horizon League championship. Gleason wanted to be as clear as she could with the team about this unprecedented end to the season. Every year Gleason said she tells the players about the impact of 9/11. She also tells them about coaching at Boston University during the Boston Marathon bombing and the emotions around that event. But this was different.

“I just tried to be as transparent  as possible with them. I just said guys, none of us have ever been through this. There’s no playbook on how we’re going to do it. I’m going to give you the information as it comes. And this is what I know right now. And that’s how we went about it. There was a lot of tears. I cried too,” said Gleason.

In late March theNCAA reported that Division 1 athletes who played spring sports would be offered the chance to play another season. Still, details need to be worked out. Coach Gleason said not all of the seniors plan to return but all 10 will graduate.

“Which I’m most proud of, of course. We have a couple who didn’t really know what they were going to do. Then we have a few who are waiting to see what  financially we can probably do to get them to play again that have expressed  interest in returning,” said Gleason.

At Eastern Kentucky University, head softball coach, Jane Worthington said her team in the Ohio Valley Conference was off to an exceptional start with 22 wins and only  two losses. She has three seniors and knows for sure one of them will return. Worthington understands why the athletes are interested in the chance to finish their senior season.

“If you know athletes they want to do what they love as long as they possibly can. I think that’s one reason I coach. It allows me to stay in the game,” said Worthington.

Worthington acknowledges the mental and emotional stress the shortened season has had on everyone, including her. “You know, we get in the game because we want to be on the field. And we don’t get to do that right now. And for me to be home this much, it takes a toll,” said Worthington.

Credit courtesy Corey Rush
Eastern Kentucky University senior softball pitcher on the mound.

EKU senior pitcher Mollie Paulick said she’s planning to come back and play next year and will go to grad school. The Centerville, Ohio native had been named OVC pitcher of the week twice this season. She’s keeping busy with a workout routine at home and wants to be ready when the team is given the green light to come back which she hopes is late summer or fall.

“I’m lucky enough that I actually have a brother that’s a catcher so he can catch me from time to time. I’m not doing “nothing” when it comes to softball and pitching. He actually plays baseball . So it’s easy for us to go out and hit together and all that type of stuff,” said Paulick.

Credit courtesy Clifton Whitmer
Northern Kentucky University senior and center fielder Ava Lawson rounding third.

Meanwhile, Ava Lawson said, as the liaison between the NCAA and student- athletes, she’s working hard to pass along everything coming from the  NCAA about COVID-19 to all of the other Horizon League student reps. She’s working out regularly and would love to return to NKU and finish her senior season as the center fielder.

“I know there’s a lot of factors that go into that and the NCAA did put it on the university so it’s going to come down to if there’s enough resources NKU can provide,” said Lawson. 

If Lawson is back as center fielder with NKU chances are when she comes up to bat she’ll hear her family rooting for her.

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Cheri is a broadcast producer, anchor, reporter, announcer and talk show host with over 25 years of experience. For three years, she was the local host of Morning Edition on WMUB-FM at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Cheri produced and hosted local talk shows and news stories for the station for nine years. Prior to that, she produced and co-hosted a local talk show on WVXU, Cincinnati for nearly 15 years. Cheri has won numerous awards from the Public Radio News Directors Association, the Ohio and Kentucky Associated Press, and both the Cincinnati and Ohio chapters of the Society for Professional Journalists.
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