News From Terre Haute, Indiana

College Report

April 3, 2010

College Report: North Vermillion’s Davis, Casey’s Murphy helping SIU-E softball

TERRE HAUTE — As the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville softball team goes through its last season before becoming eligible for the NCAA Division I championships next year, the Cougars are being led by a pair of sophomores who are Wabash Valley natives.

North Vermillion sophomore Whitney Davis leads the team in hitting at .316 as the starting first baseman and cleanup hitter, with five doubles, one homer, 17 RBI and seven runs scored with a .393 on-base percentage.

Meanwhile, Megan Murphy of Casey-Westfield has found a spot in left field and hitting leadoff in the batting order and is having a productive sophomore year.

Davis has handled 205 chances at first base with just one error.

“She came in and had a great freshman year for us,” said SIU-E coach Sandy Montgomery, also a Casey-Westfield grad and now in her 22nd year as head coach. “She hit almost .350 this year in the sixth spot, and has moved up to fourth. She’s doing a great job for us.”

Montgomery has seen a lot of progress in Davis’ swing this year, as well as her mental approach.

“She’s a patient hitter, but we are trying to get her to be more aggressive,” Montgomery said. “She can’t sit around too long in the count against D-1 pitching. They’re going to nibble around the edges, and she’s not going to be hitting the pitches she wants to hit. 

“She’s been doing a better job here lately at being more aggressive.”

Davis missed almost all of her senior season due to a knee injury suffered in basketball, but showed up in Edwardsville not missing a beat. She has enjoyed her career, even though it’s not even halfway finished yet.

“We had a great group of seniors last year and we went 40-10,” said Davis, whose team is just 19-16 so far this year. “It has been a great experience and really fun.  It hasn’t been harder than I thought in terms of the games, but it’s definitely a lot of time and a lot of work.”

From the spring games to off-season conditioning to the daily weights and training sessions and classroom work, Davis knows it’s like having a full-time job.

“It’s time consuming,” she said, “but definitely worth it.”

Whitney’s father and long-time coach, Mike, missed most of her games last year while continuing to serve as the North Vermillion varsity coach.

He has given up those duties this year, and is a regular staple at Cougar games.

“He has been to all of them,” said Whitney, who has already played in Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Arkansas this year.

Murphy attended the University of Illinois for one semester before transferring to SIU-E, and found herself in a utility role that never led to a stable position.

“Megan has made a nice adjustment to playing left field and has hit the ball well,” Montgomery said. “She is hitting close to .300 and she is swinging away as well as slapping.”

Murphy is fourth on the team in hitting at .286 and has four doubles, 10 RBI with 17 runs scored.

Her transfer last year was academic in nature, and Murphy is happy with how things are turning out.

“I changed my major to nursing, and it was better for me to go to SIU-E,” she said. “Softball wise it was also a really good fit. It’s been a nerve-wracking process, but we are one big family here and they take you in pretty easily.”

Murphy was an all-state infielder for several state finalist Warrior teams in high school, but is now getting the hang of playing the outfield.

“The transition to outfield is a big adjustment,” she said. “There are a lot of differences in reading the ball off the bat.  It’s more relaxing out there, and it gives you longer to think about things. 

“I’ve enjoyed it, and it’s been a good thing.”

• • •

• Hayes on a roll — Terre Haute North grad Alicia Hayes is wrapping up her college career this spring in her second year at IUPUI, and in late March had a streak of four consecutive games in which she hit a home run.

Hayes is the starting catcher for the 7-23 Jaguars, and has six homers on the season with 13 RBI.

“To be honest, I really don’t know what has led to my home run streak,” she said. “I just have been going up to bat and thinking that I need to get some hits and get out of my slump I have been in for the last few games.

“It feels great to be able to get out of my slump with a couple home runs!”

Hayes hit only one homer last year with two RBI.

“Even now, I don’t go up thinking I am going to hit a home run – I just go up there thinking base hits and if a home run comes, great,” she said. “The home runs do look more intimidating when other teams look at your stats!”

Hayes played two seasons at Lake Land College in Illinois, which included a trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association championships.

Wins have been harder to come by at IUPUI, which had a 3-50 record last season.

“I have had a lot of ups and a couple downs,” she said. “At Lake Land, everything was so easy to me and everything was great, I never really had any down moments there.

“My junior year was my worst down point because going from a Division I junior college to a Division I four year school is a big leap. I had a little bit of trouble adjusting to it, but now I have had a year experience and this year I came out saying I am going to have an awesome senior year!”

Hayes will be done with softball, but not with college.

She will be attending Kaplan College in the fall for an accelerated, one-year nursing program before going to Ivy Tech to study radiology.

• • •

• Ciolli making strides — Terre Haute North grad Megan Ciolli began coaching college softball while attending grad school at Loyola University in Chicago following her standout playing career at Notre Dame.

She received her Master’s of Business Administration in healthcare administration from Loyola in 2007, but has stayed in coaching at Northern Illinois while also continuing her professional playing career.

She doesn’t play anymore, but is in her third year as an assistant at NIU and is having a lot of success, which is nothing new for the former Indiana “Miss Softball” and Notre Dame All-American.

During her tenure at Northern Illinois, Ciolli has blossomed as a coach and helped develop NIU’s young talent, while also refining the skills of the Huskie veterans.

NIU coach Lindsay Chouinard, a former professional teammate of Ciolli’s, is impressed by her knowledge of the game and her ability to pass that knowledge onto the players.

“Megan knows the swing in and out,” Chouinard said. “She is a great instructor. Over the past couple of years, she has done a great job of transitioning from being specifically an instructor to more of a coach.”

Chouinard credits Ciolli with the development of former NIU outfielders Jenna Roberts, who tied the NIU single season record for stolen bases in 2009, and Katie Colby, who hit her first career home runs last season. Ciolli has also had an impact on current Huskie outfielders Dani Parrish and Zoe Sinner and 2009 MAC All-Tournament team honoree Andrea Colosimo.

Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at tribstarcollegereport@yahoo.com.

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