Creighton-bound softball player Kailey Wilson hitting her stride after overcoming injury.
At one moment last summer, Kailey Wilson’s name was written atop the clipboards of dozens of Division I college coaches at the Triple Crown Sparkler, where the Colorado Styxx and Eaglecrest High School star had been raking nationally elite pitching throughout the tournament.
The next moment, Wilson was holding her injured right knee after sliding into a play at the plate. Her leg jammed into the catcher’s shin guard that was barricading the plate, causing complete tears of the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus.
As she was helped off the diamond, Wilson could sense the major-coaches scratching her name off their lists of players to watch. The first baseman posted a .537 batting average in a breakout sophomore campaign for Eaglecrest just a few months before and already was the best hitter on one of the state’s top club teams, but a serious knee injury like the one the recruiters just witnessed was enough to snuff her momentum toward receiving scholarship offers.
“Most of the colleges pulled back on their interest after that,” Wilson said. “I felt like people were like, ‘She got hurt bad, so now she’s not going to be as good as she was,’ and that made me want to work harder so I could prove them wrong when I came back out to play.”
Wilson had surgery Aug. 2, 2016, with an estimated recovery time of six to nine months that wiped out her junior season last fall. She sought to be back in action on the early end of that spectrum, and was officially cleared to play on Feb. 10 last winter, thanks to a grueling physical therapy regimen.
“During the team’s weightlifting class last year, you could see she was still hungry and she wanted to show everyone that she isn’t done yet,” said Eaglecrest junior shortstop Rachel Sabourin, a University of Hawaii commit. “And when I played against her during the summer, you can definitely tell she still has that rare type of power and pure ability.”
Wilson racked up 15 home runs, 70 RBIs, 25 walks and a .500 batting average in 169 plate appearances for the Styxx this year. That’s an indication the slugger, whom club coach Pablo Severtson calls “the best pure and power hitter in the state,” is better than she was before the knee injury.
And her college destination ironed itself out too. Wilson verbally committed to Creighton on July 13 after the Bluejays of Omaha, along with a handful of other schools, came back around.
Northern Colorado, Colorado Mesa and Metro State extended offers too, as did Louisiana Tech, Central Arkansas and the University at Buffalo. But a full-ride scholarship offer from Creighton ultimately won out for a polished hitter who is capable of putting Eaglecrest on her shoulders in the batter’s box this fall.
“She does a great job of staying short to the baseball and long through it,” Severtson said. “That allows the ball to jump off her bat, and another thing is she uses the whole field. She no longer just has power to the pull side, and that’s a credit to the time she’s put in at the cages.”
Wilson’s return is gravy for loaded Eaglecrest, which has played in the Class 5A state tournament all five seasons under coach Yvette Hendrian and earned a Final Four berth last fall.
“Her presence is huge — the opposition knows who she is, and the fact that she’s in our arsenal helps our program seem tougher,” Hendrian said. “We have a tough program anyway, but she brings a different edge to it.
“Last year, people thought we wouldn’t have any home runs without her, but then Rachel Sabourin hit nine home runs. So this year, with Kailey back, I think people are like, ‘Oh, no. Here comes Eaglecrest again.’ ”
And as Wilson focuses on leading the Raptors to their second state championship, and first since 2005, those who know her game best realize the type of player she can become at the collegiate level.
“She’s one that I hope to see on TV, hitting home runs at regionals or in the Women’s College World Series,” Hendrian said.
Kailey Wilson suffered complete tears of her ACL and meniscus in the summer of 2016. Through a tough physical therapy regimen, Wilson found herself back on the diamond and earned multiple Division I scholarship offers.