Breanna Wonderly leads on and off the field for Illinois softball


The Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois’ Breanna Wonderly (20) pitches the ball during the softball game v. Purdue at Eichelberger Field on Sunday, Apr. 26, 2015.

By Erich Fisher, Staff writer

Senior Breanna Wonderly commands the mound like no other pitcher on the Illinois softball team.

Every time she steps on the mound, she places the ball on her hip and then rolls it three times before she slides it into her glove. This assures that she is fully in sync before she throws her pitch.

She then winds up and fires a rise ball down the plate, a pitch that was working well for her Friday when she threw the 12th no-hitter in Illinois softball history.

Wonderly’s performance on the mound helped the Illini sweep the Hawkeyes. She went 2-0 with an ERA of 0.68 while also getting the save in the series finale.

“My rise ball is new this year, and it was really moving a lot on Friday,” Wonderly said. “Then on Sunday, I’d say my drop ball was my strongest pitch.”

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It is not just her performance on the field that her coaches and teammates appreciate, but also with the way she carries herself.

“She’s very controlled of her emotions, and that’s at least something that I look up to,” junior pitcher Erin Walker said. “Her mentality, her demeanor and her body language when she is in stressful situations is a good thing to look up to.”

Walker and Wonderly come from similar backgrounds, as Walker transferred from Parkland Community College to Illinois this year while Wonderly transferred from Heartland Community College in Bloomington, Ill. her sophomore year.

“It’s comforting just knowing that another pitcher was in my position at one point,” Walker said. “I asked her a lot questions about the differences from junior colleges and Division I colleges.”

Wonderly understands her teammates look up to her, and she does everything she can to help them with not only on-field situations, but ones off the field.

“I’m just trying to help them with experiences; I tell them all the time, just ask me any questions you have on situations or even on plays that we do at practice,” Wonderly said. “They’ll be teaching me just as much as I have (taught them).”

Illinois head coach Tyra Perry has taken notice of Wonderly’s improvement in her vocal communication this year — something she believes has helped her lead.

She noted that Wonderly was a bit more reserved last year, but this year she has been talking a lot more than she has in the past. Wonderly quickly realized too that she needed to be more vocal for her team this year.

“It’s always easy to fall into the lead-by-example (role), but I know the team needs me and that they respect me,” Wonderly said. “(I’m) just being more vocal to help the younger people improve.”

Illinois will have a tough opponent this weekend when it faces No. 6 Minnesota this weekend.

In this game, Wonderly will have the complete support of her teammates and coaches behind her. Perry has nothing but praise for her ace pitcher.

“They know she is out there working for them,” Perry said. “She’s not flashy at all; I cannot explain how she does what she does, except that it’s her heart and guts she puts out there on the field every time she pitches.”

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