It’s impossible to ignore Paige Keegan’s gaudy offensive statistics from the 2013 season.
The Genoa-Kingston junior catcher set a Cogs school record with a .612 batting average. She clubbed five homers and drove in 29 runs. Her slugging percentage was better than 1.000 and she walked 11 times with only three strikeouts.
Keegan did all of this while spending the rest of her time crouching behind the plate, catching G-K pitchers Danielle Engel and Baylie Ullmark.
The junior’s all-around play is why she’s been named the 2013 Daily Chronicle Softball Player of the Year. DeKalb freshman Morgan Newport and Kaneland senior Allyson O’Herron also were considered for the award.
So, what does Keegan give credit for her out-of-this-world numbers?
Patience, patience, patience.
“I was smarter at the plate. I took more pitches,” Keegan said. “I was so into waiting for my pitch and not taking the pitcher’s pitch.”
Keegan wanted to make an effort to not give the opposing pitcher any help. She didn’t swing at balls out of the zone and learned to hit with two strikes. Keegan was perfectly fine with taking ball four and heading to first.
“Going into high school I was too anxious,” she said. “I just wanted to hit the [heck] out of the ball. I just need to find my pitch and drive the ball.”
G-K coach Mike Lauer noticed Keegan’s selectiveness in the batter’s box. Lauer said she was able to push the ball to the opposite field as well.
“On offense, I think it’s just that one more year of maturity at the plate, where she was comfortable,” Lauer said.
When Keegan was catching, Lauer said runners rarely even tried testing her arm, and passed balls were few and far between.
After she wraps up her prep career, Keegan plans to play college softball, preferably at the Division I level.
“That’s my dream, to go Division I,” she said. “But if I go Division II, I’m perfectly fine with that.”
For Keegan, improving on what she accomplished in 2013 won’t be an easy. But to Lauer, she certainly has the drive to do that, and get to the next level.
“Her work ethic is just beyond the average player in high school,” Lauer said. “... In the weight room, every day at practice. Her overall mentality is just different than the normal athlete at that level.”
Previous Softball Player of the Years
2012: Delani Vest, Kaneland 2011: Katie Kowalski, DeKalb 2010: Delani Vest, Kaneland 2009: Jami Miller, Genoa-Kingston 2008: Lindsay Decker, Genoa-Kingston