Creighton-bound soft­ball player Kai­ley Wil­son hit­ting her stride af­ter over­com­ing in­jury.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kyle Newman Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

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.

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