Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Steve Craig firstname.lastname@example.org
Janelle Bouchard’s path to Indiana, where she’s the starting catcher on the Division I Valparaiso University softball team, began before she even reached Kennebunk High.
“When I was an assistant coach at the University of Rhode Island, I first saw Janelle when she was in the eighth grade playing for her travel team in the summer,” Valparaiso Coach Jordan Stevens said.
“We were looking at another player at the time and we saw her behind the plate and I became very fond of the way she played. I continued to follow her when I went to Union and when I got the job out here her coach became my very first phone call. I was just hoping she hadn’t committed yet.”
It turned out Bouchard, a four-time first-team All-State selection at Kennebunk, had received a few offers but none that matched Valparaiso’s.
“I was super honored and I came out here, and everyone was very welcoming and the family environment was what I wanted,” Bouchard said in a recent telephone interview. “It was an easy decision.”
Bouchard’s move from southeast Maine to the northwest corner of the Hoosier state (Valparaiso is approximately halfway between South Bend and Chicago) has been a great fit between player and program.
“It’s awesome. I’m living the dream out here. Definitely I love it,” Bouchard said.
For most of her freshman season Bouchard was hitting well above .300 with power and production.
Like the rest of her team, Bouchard’s batting average slipped as the Crusaders (21-19, 6-6 in the Horizon League) totaled 10 runs in seven straight losses.
Entering Thursday’s nonconference game at Notre Dame, Bouchard is hitting .298 with nine doubles, two homers and a team-leading 29 RBI. She’s been in the starting lineup 37 times, usually behind the plate.
Bouchard has not been charged with an error and has thrown out a respectable 11 of 37 steal attempts.
“I think my mental game has had to change a lot. I hadn’t been put into too many pressure situations in high school or summer ball but it’s pretty much constant out here,” Bouchard said.
Valparaiso will play 55 games leading up to the Horizon League tournament May 8-11. Valparaiso won the regular-season and tournament championship in 2012, earning its first bid to the NCAA tournament.
“It’s a long season, a lot of wear and tear, and you just have to fight through it and fight through adversity to achieve success,” Bouchard said.
Stevens said Bouchard has taken charge of the pitching staff, which includes two freshmen starters.
“I knew she would be able to throw people out and swing the bat,” Stevens said. “The thing that is starting to impress me more and more is that she has to deal with a very young pitching staff and the leadership skills that she’s starting to exhibit.”
South Portland native Jon Gillies was named the Hockey Commissioners’ Association Division I national rookie of the year Friday after a standout season in goal for Providence.
Gillies went 17-12-6 with a school-record five shutouts. His 2.08 goals-against average was the second-best in school history and ranked 15th nationally. His .931 save percentage ranked ninth nationally.
“This is obviously an amazing honor and I would like to thank everyone who was part of the decision process,” Gillies said in an HCA release. “I know I wouldn’t be anywhere without my family, Coach (Nate) Leaman and his staff, and their belief in me, and most of all my teammates who had my back no matter what.”
Gillies earned a number of postseason honors.
He became the first freshman to be selected as a Hockey East first-team goaltender.
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