Senior staff writer
The Southside’s Fab Five represents the future success of softball at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
The players – Delainey Turner, Maddie Keeley and Mandy Dallas from Center Grove High School’s 2015 4A state championship team, Megan Overton from Greenwood and Delaney Thompson from Franklin Central – are among a combined 10 freshmen/sophomores with the Jaguars, who have only two seniors and four juniors.
Turner, an outfielder converted to first base, is the only sophomore among the five; she had 20 hits and scored 10 times this season.
Keeley, an outfielder, played in 36 games before suffering a bone chip in her ankle. She is to undergo surgery next week. She hit .245 and was successful in stealing base 13 of 14 times.
Dallas capped IUPUI’s home season Saturday with a grand slam in the first inning in the Jags’ 9-2 senior day win over Detroit Mercy. She hit .312 with 39 hits, 33 RBIs and a team-high 10 home runs.
Thompson had a great college freshman year, hitting .275 (.325 in Summit League games) and being named to the league’s all-tourney team. She was a two-time All-State softball player for coach Kathy Stricker at Franklin Central.
Overton helped lead Greenwood to three straight Mid-State titles and back-to-back Johnson County championships. She played for Boston College as a freshman, appearing in 16 games. She returned home, racking up a 13-15 record on the mound with a 3.02 ERA and striking out 139 batters for the Jags.
In an exclusive interview with The Southsider Voice, The Fab Five answer some questions. The interview:
Q: What attracted you to IUPUI?
A: Overton: All my friends are here from around where I played softball. And I was ready to come home after being away for a year.
Keeley: I like the big-city feel, a big campus. I have played with some of my teammates here before this.
Dallas: I like it because it is so close to home, and being so close to Downtown too. There are a lot of opportunities, especially for business majors.
Thompson: All the opportunities that the university offers. I like being close to my family and being able to go home.
Turner: On the contrary, I wanted to go out of state forever, but I couldn’t pass up coming here and playing with some of the girls I’ve played softball with while growing up. Also, you can’t beat the Kelly School of Business.
Q: What did you learn about playing softball in high school that you brought with you to the college level?
A: Overton: We had a good team my freshman and sophomore year, so I had to fight for a position. I learned that I had to battle on every pitch. As the years went on I learned that you had to be a leader too.
Keeley: You have to play as a team; you can’t play for yourself.
Dallas: That’s where I learned to be a player – how to hit, play your position and just learning to play with who’s next to you on the field.
Thompson: I knew that coach Kathy Stricker didn’t usually bring up freshmen to the varsity. It showed me that she had a lot of hope and belief in me. I learned to believe in yourself.
Turner: Playing at Center Grove, we had a target on our back all the time because we were one of the powerhouses in the state. I felt like I brought that here, knowing that everyone is coming after you to beat you. You have to fight for everything; nothing is going to be given to you.
Q: Also looking back at high school, what do you consider your best memory of playing softball?
A: Overton: My freshman and sophomore years I got to play with my sister, and the team had so much talent. Honestly we never thought we would lose a game. Those were really the fun years.
Keeley: Getting so far every year in the state tournament, especially 2015 by winning state. Starting in that game was my best memory.
Dallas: My favorite memory was not the state championship game but the journey to the game. We had to fight in every game; we couldn’t take a game off. It was just a hard battle to get there.
Thompson: I have two memories. One was my freshman year and making it all the way to the state game; we didn’t win but it was the journey. Second was my senior year when we made it to semistate. We were nine seniors on that team and we are close friends.
Turner: I thought the battle to get to state was the fun part. Winning the state was our reward for getting there.
Q: Playing softball at IUPUI, what has been your most difficult adjustment?
A: Overton: I would say the switch from pitching to hitting in games. Here, I pitch and I’m the leadoff hitter: I have to pitch to get outs but then I have to bat for myself. I can’t get down on myself if I don’t hit well and I can’t take my pitching to my at-bats. I had to do that in high school but it’s an entirely different level here.
Keeley: I would say trying to adjust to new pitchers. In high school you see the same pitchers but in college, they’re all different.
Dallas: The most difficult thing is to prove yourself. In high school everyone knows who you are. Here, most everyone is from a different area or state. You have to show them what kind of player you are.
Thompson: In high school I played outfield and coming in here last year I had to play shortstop. It was difficult but it turned out good.
Turner: Coming here, we had a different coach recruit us and once we got here we had a different coach. I was a middle infielder but had shoulder surgery in the fall and had to adapt to playing first base.
Q: Do you believe you five hold the key to the future success of softball at IUPUI?
A: Overton: We’ve played together for so long; we’re going to play for each other and we’re going to graduate together. So that’s a really cool thing that we’re doing. We are very lucky to be doing this.
Keeley: We get along so well together on the field. If something happens that goes against us, we’re able to forget about it and keep playing.
Dallas: This is a great opportunity. Playing together, obviously we’re going to be even better in the years ahead.
Thompson: Some of us have played on the same travel team, but just being able to fall back on them. I had to sit out this year because of Tommy John surgery but knowing they have my back and I have there’s gives us the greatest feeling ever.
Turner: It’s great that we are younger. We came from powerhouse high schools and travel teams, so we get to show our culture. By coming here, we can create a new culture: we’re going to try and win, no matter what.