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Illini of the Year: Nicole Evans

Illinois%E2%80%99+Nicole+Evans+jumps+onto+home+plate+after+hitting+her+52nd+career+home+run%2C+breaking+the+school+record%2C+during+the+game+against+Ohio+State+at+Eichelberger+Field+on+Saturday.+
Illinois’ Nicole Evans jumps onto home plate after hitting her 52nd career home run, breaking the school record, during the game against Ohio State at Eichelberger Field on Saturday.

Illinois’ Nicole Evans jumps onto home plate after hitting her 52nd career home run, breaking the school record, during the game against Ohio State at Eichelberger Field on Saturday.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Nicole Evans jumps onto home plate after hitting her 52nd career home run, breaking the school record, during the game against Ohio State at Eichelberger Field on Saturday.

Erich Fisher, Staff writer

Unforgettable.

That’s the word senior Nicole Evans uses to describe her last four years as a member of the Illinois softball team.

It’s not just Evans that will never forget her career at Illinois. In fact, it is likely that no Illini fan who saw the Glen Ellyn, Illinois, native play will ever forget her record-setting play.

Her stat line over her last four years has been nothing short of impressive to say the least. She has a career batting average of .327, 52 home runs (the most in program history), 173 RBIs (also the most in program history), and a .687 slugging percentage to go along with a .409 on-base percentage.

Evans has also started 197 of the 206 games she has appeared in over her career.

Not only has Evans built an impressive career for herself as a softball player, but she has also built ever-lasting relationships with her teammates, such as senior Ruby Rivera.

“I love the girl,” Rivera said. “We’re always there for each other; if someone’s out there doing bad, we just talk to each other. We’re always trying to keep each other in the game. On and off the field, we got each other’s back.”

This season has been Evans’ best overall with career-highs in batting percentage (.372), RBIs (55), slugging percentage (.838), walks (31) and on-base percentage (.497).

Evans said that her increase in overall game knowledge has helped her this season.

“(It’s important for me) knowing what pitch I want to hit and knowing the game plan of the opposing team,” Evans said. “There’s a lot of times that I know other teams don’t want to pitch to me, like getting walked four times a game, but me knowing that getting on base for my team is helping them.”

While some people choose to lead by example and stay more reserved, Illinois head coach Tyra Perry said Evans is the exact opposite.

“Nicole is an all-around everything,” Perry said. “She’s doing the example things. She’s talking in the dugout and in the field.” 

Evans has obviously been successful on the field, but off the field, her demeanor has allowed people to really get an idea for what kind of person she is.

The modest outfielder racked up the off-the-field awards her senior year. She was awarded the Arthur Ashe Jr. Female Sports Scholar of the Year award April 6. The award honors “undergraduate students of color who best exemplify academic and athletic achievement.”

Evans was picked over 2,500 people who were also nominated. 

She then received the Big Ten Medal of Honor at this year’s Oskee Awards.

This award also exemplifies athletes’ success on and off the field.

Evans is active within the community, working alongside the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, whose mission is to “provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.”

She has also worked with the Down Syndrome Network and has served on the African-American Cultural Center Director Search Committee as a student representative.

“It shocks me all the time. People congratulate me for it, and I tell them I’m just going out and doing the right thing like my parents taught me,” Evans said.

“Anything that shows our school and program in a great light couldn’t make me happier and more honored to get those things.”

When it comes to Evans’ future beyond the softball program, she is majoring in kinesiology and intends to become a sports medicine doctor or a physical therapist.

She will still be at the University come next fall as a graduate assistant, but Evans said going to Eichelberger Field as a spectator, not a player, will take some time adjusting to.

“Yeah, I don’t know about that,” Evans said.

“I might have to wear my uniform to the games next year.”

erichf2@dailyillini.com

@ETFisher24

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