January 30, 2015

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – The John A. Logan College softball team will certainly have a Southern Illinois flavor at the start of the next school year. No fewer than nine of the 10 signees are from the heart of Southern Illinois with the 10th residing on the outskirts of the region.

Committing to play at Logan this past Saturday were: Kiarha Wilce (West Frankfort); Katie Sandusky (Benton); Sydnee Rushing (Goreville); Nicole Short (Zeigler-Royalton); Grace Vaughn (Hardin County); Hillary Ingram (Hamilton County); Jordyn Smith and Krista Garduno (Massac County); Megan Hampton (Carterville); and Madison Rapien (Trenton-Wesclin).

“This is one of the most talented recruiting classes we have ever had,” said Vols head softball coach Bruce Jilek. “We certainly have acquired pitching depth (Rushing, Vaughn and Short), including multiple Division I prospects, and all are Southern Illinois kids.”

Signed infielders include Wilce (middle infield); Rapien, Smith and Hampton. Outfielders include Sandusky, Ingram and Garduno.

Wilce has mostly played shortstop at West Frankfort, but is athletic enough that she could also compete for playing time at second base or outfield. She is described by Jilek as a hitter who “grinds out at bats, a tough out.”

Her older sister, Shayly, was a top-notch pitcher for the Vols a few years ago.

“Shayly encouraged me to come to Logan,” Wilce said. “She had a great experience here and told me she made a lot of friends. While I’m a little nervous about taking the next step of college ball, I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Wilce, who is also a standout point guard in basketball, said she made her decision to go the softball route after her junior year.

“I think it’s my best sport. I am hopeful I can contribute to the team’s success next year,” she said.

Garduno, a speedy outfielder who hits for average, is one of two Massac County players signed.
“Logan is a good choice for me because it’s close to home, yet not so close that I would drive to school every day from home,” she said. “We’ve enjoyed a lot of success at the high school level here at Massac and I hope we can continue that at the next level. I’m excited about getting the opportunity. Playing college ball has been a dream of mine for years.”

Smith is Garduno’s teammate with the Patriots. Her main position is second base, but is versatile enough to play other positions.

“I really enjoyed my visit when I was on campus,” Smith said. “Everyone was so friendly and inviting. Logan simply felt like the right decision for me.”

Smith said she has worked hard to prepare herself for college ball.

“I consider myself a competitor and am looking forward to the challenge of playing at the next level. I love playing the game.”
Short is a hard-throwing lefthanded pitcher from Zeigler-Royalton, who according to Jilek, can become an impact player if she can improve her command of the strike zone.

“I guess you could say I throw the ball pretty hard, but am still working on throwing all my pitches for strikes,” she said. “Playing college ball is what I have always wanted to do. I’m excited to see how successful I can be against college hitters. I am confident in my ability and hope I can make an impact as a freshman.”

Ingram will patrol the outfield for the Vols. The Hamilton County product is tall and swings the bat with a power stroke, according to Jilek.

“I have wanted to play for Logan for a while now,” Ingram said. “I have multiple friends there and am pretty excited to see what I can do at the next level. I don’t play other sports, just softball. And I’m excited about having the opportunity to play.”

Hampton is a middle infield prospect who will contend for playing time her freshman year.

“My goal is to keep progressing,” Hampton said. “I played volleyball, too, but softball has always been my best sport. As I’m enrolled in the nursing program, I spoke with Coach Jilek about any concerns he might have with that. He told me that he would help make the time for me to work toward that degree. That made my decision much easier to play at Logan. For that, I am very thankful.”

Vaughn is from Hardin County, who Jilek said throws the ball with zip and movement.

“Being from a smaller school (32 graduating seniors), Grace was flying a little bit under the radar, but I think she could push for a lot of time on the mound,” he said. “And she can also play some outfield if we need her.”

Vaughn said she fielded other offers, but felt Logan was the best fit after visiting the campus and meeting with the Vols’ coaches.

“I just loved the school,” she said. “I am very determined to be successful as a pitcher. I will put in the work because I know it will be well worth it in the end.”

Vaughn said she would describe herself as a power pitcher with a good change up.

“I take pride in what I do,” she said. “Playing college softball has been a dream of mine for some time and I can’t wait to get started.”

Rushing is another pitcher who comes from a small school in Goreville.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to play college ball,” she said. “I guess you could say I’m a little nervous, but excited.”

Rushing said she throws three pitches – fastball, change and riser.

“And I’m working on a curve, too,” she said. “There are times when I go after the strikeout, but I consider myself to be a crafty pitcher. I try to get the hitters to get themselves out. That’s why there’s a defense behind you.”

Jilek said Rushing, who can also play the outfield, has state tournament experience and was being recruited by several Division I and II schools before choosing Logan.

Rapien has the “potential to be a big bat” for the Vols next fall, Jilek said. “And she has quick hands at shortstop.”

The New Baden native who attended Wesclin High School, said she has watched Logan play on a number of occasions.

“I just like the softball program there and the way the coaches interact with the players,” she said. “I’m super excited about playing college softball and would like to think that I am not just a hitter and fielder, but also a leader.”

Sandusky is a power-hitting outfielder from Benton who has been recruited by some Division I schools.

“Katie has a strong bat and covers a lot of ground in the outfield,” Jilek said.