By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Even when everything points to Jewel Lilley, she repeatedly points to everyone else.
If she is going to fall inside the spotlight, then she is going to make sure her teammates are standing right alongside her.
Even after blasting two grand slams in a single week.
Even when she leads her team in nearly every offensive category.
Even when she is the team’s ace pitcher.
For the Waterloo softball senior standout, the individual success means nothing to her if she is not celebrating in the team’s success in the process.
The behavior comes easy, too, because it is simply part of Lilley’s personality.
Veteran Vikings head coach Brenda Flarida witnesses Lilley’s team-first attitude every day.
“Jewel’s best quality is how she is so supportive of her teammates,” Flarida said. “She is always encouraging and cheering for each player.”
Her teammates readily return the favor and have had plenty of opportunities, especially recently when Lilley’s bat came alive in critical moments for a pair of grand slams within just three days of each other.
The first came in the team’s first league game of the season and the Vikes trailing Mineral Ridge 2-1. Lilley connected on a pitch and sent the ball down the left-field line. So close to the line that she was not sure if it was going to stay fair or not. By the time she got about three-fourths of her way to first base, it cleared the fence.
Three days later, Lilley did it again. This time in a matchup with Mathews and in a tight count, she delivered a blast to left-center that cleared the bases.
“All I could think about was, ‘No way, again’!,” Lilley said.
Flarida was watching from third base on both and could do nothing but smile for her senior.
“She hit the first grand salmon our first league game, it was the second inning and we were down … I could tell she was a little nervous in the circle as the starter in the first league game of the year. So when she hit the home run, I was so excited for her because I felt like it set the tone for the rest of the game,” Flarida said. “It put us ahead, and I could tell her confidence changed as soon as she went back out on defense.
“Then she hit another grand slam three days later and the excitement from our team was awesome,” Flarida added. “Hitting is contagious, so to experience two grand slams in one week, gave everyone confidence at the plate.”
For the season, Lilley is batting .571, with 21 RBI, 16 hits, five doubles and three home runs. As the team’s starter, she has a 3-4 record with 49 strikeouts.
She does a little bit of everything for the Vikings, which is something Flarida has learned is just part of who Lilley is.
“Over the last four years, she has always told me, ‘Whatever you need me to do coach, I will’,” Flarida said.
“Jewel is a true leader … and she is so much fun to coach because she is so positive,” Flarida said.
“She is a competitor and wants to win and just loves being part of a team. Her softball family.”
Just the way Lilley likes it.
Everyone playing together.
Even when everything points back to her.
It only matters if she is with her softball family.
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