SPORTS

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May 25, 2007

Wade stepped up to smash records when softball needed her most

In her first two seasons as a Maroon, Petra Wade took a comfortable backseat to All-American Hannah Roberts (A.B. ’06) in pitching duties, starting in just under half of Chicago’s games. Yet when the unexpected departure of Roberts and two other senior starters left the team’s future in doubt last spring, Wade stepped up to the mound and into the spotlight for good.

Starting without reliable relief in the bullpen for 30 of Chicago’s 35 games, Wade’s record-tying 19 wins in her junior campaign carried the squad to a 20–15 record and a postseason bid.

“Last year’s season as a whole, our team really had to rally,” said the righty. “It was definitely difficult for me. It’s a good feeling to know if you’re having an off day, someone can come in and save you. It was really scary to know that if I was off that day, there wasn’t really another option. It wasn’t a situation I anticipated, and that made it hard. I got through it because Coach and all the girls were behind me.”

“Her maturity and responsibility for the team got us through the season,” said head coach Ruth Kmak. “She basically put us on her shoulders and carried us through the season, and that carried over into this year.”

Allowing only 40 earned runs in her 30 outings, Wade finished her third year with a miniscule 1.46 ERA, by far the stand-out player on a squad that surprised everyone. Starting the season seriously in doubt after the unexpected losses on the roster, Chicago, with Wade at the helm, was dubbed Team Disney as it paved the way to a picture-perfect come-from-behind season.

Returning this March as the Maroons’ established go-to girl, Wade found some backup on the mound in the form of first-year arrivals Kathleen Duffy and Lauren White. Now able to let it fly without the added nerve damage of standing alone, Wade found her groove for the second season in a row, tossing a 1.97 ERA and raising her winning percentage above .700 as she punched 16 more victories.

Even among softball’s sea of statistics, any Maroon could quickly tell you which of Petra’s numbers stands far above the rest. In her home finale against UW–Oshkosh (36–11), Wade watched as a fly out to left field secured her 50th career win, passing Roberts in Chicago’s record books. A shut out of St. Norbert (20–14) to keep the South Siders alive at NCAA regionals gave Wade extra insurance, and 51 is now etched in history as the mark to beat.

“I wasn’t really keeping track of the statistics,” said Wade of the record. “I didn’t realize for a while that it was something I was in the running for. For me, it shows me that I’ve played on good teams—it’s not a goal I could have accomplished alone. I’m not a strikeout pitcher at all. I count on grounding out balls, so I’m not effective if my team’s not good.”

With her success on the mound, poor hitting on the ace’s part could easily be excused, butWade proved that she can swing with the rest of them. Belting home 17 RBIs in her senior campaign, Wade batted .352 to take the third-best average on the team.

Along with breaking team records for career wins and appearances this year, Wade had the chance to revel in another milestone, this time at the plate: her first home run since Little League.

“That was definitely a highlight,” said Kmak. “She’s contributed throughout her career as a pitcher, and then this year very significantly as a hitter as well. For someone who didn’t even hit in the lineup every single game, that’s impressive.”

Yet for all Wade’s triumphs, success eluded her in one area: the postseason. The righty dropped a 9–2 elimination round to Aurora last spring, and then relieved White in a must-win situation against Coe two weeks ago, only to watch the Kohawks club the Maroons in a 8–0 mercy rule ending.

“Losing in the playoffs has been a frustrating experience,” said Wade. “But my goal has been to make it to the tournament, and we’ve done that. Every year we’re getting stronger and putting up a better show. As much as I’d love to go and win the title our first time in the offseason, we’re definitely improving, and that’s important to see.”