Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 02:04
As the academic year comes to an end, seniors must say goodbye to the lives they’ve lived for several years to get ready to move onto the next phase of their lives.
For most collegiate athletes, there is the added facet of having to say goodbye to their sports and teams. UNC softball’s senior catcher Erin Wilkinson will be facing this challenge as the season and the school year wrap up in the coming weeks.
“Softball’s been part of my life for basically my whole life — since I was eight years old — so it’s going to be a huge void,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said it would be difficult to leave her family away from home as soon as the season ends.
“Being part of a team is extremely special,” Wilkinson said. “The family atmosphere on the team is one of a kind.”
Wilkinson’s teammates said they will miss her fielding, her hitting, her friendship and most of all her leadership. As one of only three seniors on a freshman-laden squad, her voice and demeanor helped relax or inspire her teammates as needed.
“Being a freshman, she knew how to calm me down,” pitcher Mikayla Duffy said. “She knew how to give me confidence in myself.”
Head coach Mark Montgomery said Wilkinson’s leadership and position on the field will be difficult to replace.
“(She’s) probably one of my favorite players to have ever been around and certainly one of my greatest leaders of all time in my 20 years of coaching,” Montgomery said.
After the effect Wilkinson has made in the game for the team — especially with the infield and pitchers — some said it will be quite a change to not to see her behind the plate in the future.
“It’s hard saying she’s not going to be here next year,” Duffy said.
In the four years the Colorado native and Windsor High School graduate has been at UNC, Wilkinson has been as reliable as they come. She started in 48 games as a freshman and has started in every game since her sophomore season.
Wilkinson has been named Pacific Coast Softball Conference player of the week three times, a member of the PCSC Commissioner’s Honor Roll twice, a member of the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team and PCSC All-Mountain Division Honorable Mention during her time as a Bear.
At the plate, Wilkinson has accumulated 88 RBIs and 12 home runs in her career, but she said a legacy is the most important thing a player can leave.
“It’s not about the records you set or the amount of hits you get,” Wilkinson said. “I think it’s the impact you have on the people.”
Wilkinson’s graduation and departure from the team, Montgomery said, cannot be expressed enough.
“You can’t ever replace a kid like Erin,” Montgomery said.