Softball: Scene stealer

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Bellissimo Foto/Chris Blumenshine
TWU shortstop Bailey Vrazel drops down a bunt for a base hit during last season’s Lone Star Conference tournament at Pioneer Field. The record-breaking base stealer recently received the TWU President’s Award.

TWU shortstop Vrazel continues to build resume

TWU junior shortstop Bailey Vrazel is picking up awards as quickly as she steals bases. Her 75 steals in her sophomore season broke her own school and Lone Star Conference single-season records that she set in her freshman campaign.

Vrazel’s aptitude for achievements recently was reflected in her selection as the 2011-12 President’s Award winner by the TWU Athletics Council.

Three student-athletes were considered for the prestigious award, with Vrazel alongside senior Chaynade Knowles, a four-year letter winner in gymnastics, and senior Katelyn Osborne, a four-year letter winner in volleyball.

“The President’s Award nominees are reviewed by the athletics council, and that council is made up of faculty and staff and there is no staff from the athletics department,” athletic director Chalese Connors said. “They are looking with fresh eyes. They don’t have any interaction with the students, and these young women are pretty well-known names. They are looking at it as a pretty statistical process.”

Vrazel certainly had statistics in her corner, as she led

the Pioneers last season in batting average (.414), at-bats (174), runs (61), hits (72), walks (31) and on-base percentage (.514) while setting single-season school records in runs and walks.

“It’s the highest award that any athlete can receive here at TWU,” softball coach Richie Bruister said. “It’s the best of the best. It says that you’re the best athlete that TWU has for that year. It’s not just looking at one thing. It’s looking at what you’ve done for your sport, what you’ve done as a leader, what you’ve done for your university and what you’ve done for your community.”

In the classroom, Vrazel is majoring in kinesiology and has a 4.0 grade-point average, and was named 2012 Lone Star Conference Fred Jacoby Female Academic Athlete of the Year.

What may be the most impressive aspect of Vrazel’s credentials is the fact that she became just the second student-athlete to receive the President’s Award in her sophomore year. Former TWU gymnast Lisa Harlan earned the honor during sophomore, junior and senior years (1982-85).

With nearly a 30-year gap between sophomore recipients, Vrazel certainly is setting the bar high for both herself and future students.

“Bailey won because of the outstanding young person that she is,” Connors said. “She has the most amazing credentials. Every once in a while you get these outstanding student-athletes, and she made an impact her first day on campus. I know Bailey as a very focused, dedicated, hardworking person.

“She really is on the way to being the most accomplished student-athlete ever. We have high expectations already, but she sets the bar.”

Everyone who has enjoyed success inevitably has had their share of doubters and skeptics, but for Vrazel, following up her stellar freshman season was just a matter of improvement.

“Everyone told me that I would probably have a sophomore slump,” Vrazel said. “I just like to play and set goals for myself. I didn’t do anything differently. I do not like to fail. I’ve been like that my whole life. I keep trying and I know the potential that I have. That’s why I try so hard, because I know I can do better. Now I have to maintain.”

Even Vrazel’s failures on the field have an odd way of illuminating her personal success.

“The first thing Angelo State says about their catcher is that she was one of two catchers to throw Bailey out,” Bruister said. “That’s how that conversation starts. You would have thought they won the World Series when they did.”

Vrazel wasn’t the only softball player to enjoy success this season as the Pioneers (37-17) earned their fourth NCAA tournament berth, but the pain of losing in the Division II South Central Regional left Vrazel and her teammates with a clear goal for next season.

“We were all pretty bummed, to say the least,” Vrazel said. “It puts a fire under you and it shows how real it can be and the potential that you have. You have to have the drive, because in an instant it can be taken away from you just as quickly as you can get it. You have to learn how it felt and know how you want to feel. I feel pretty confident that we can make it back to regionals.”

Bruister said he enjoys how easily coached Vrazel is and credits her success to her resistance to failure.

“She has an extreme fear of failure, and I think that drives her to go out and be the best she can be,” Bruister said. “She wants what’s best for her teammates, her family and everybody around her. She’s constantly asking what it takes to get better. You would think, ‘Why are you asking that? You’re already the best.’ That’s not her mentality.”

With having already accomplished so much in her TWU career, Vrazel still looks toward the future.

The Granbury native plans on being a physical therapist after school and pursuing a doctorate, with dreams of one day being able to travel and work on athletes’ rehabilitation.

In the fall, sophomore and fellow infielder Kendra Sancet and Vrazel are set to travel to Boston to represent the TWU honors program and speak about how they balance academics and athletics.

“The topic of discussion around the country is that they are having a hard time getting athletes in honors programs,” Vrazel said. “There aren’t many athletes in honors programs. It requires a lot of time and it is difficult. You have to have a drive to do it, and that’s why people don’t succeed in the classroom.”

Halfway through her athletic and academic career at TWU, Vrazel has much to be proud of. Yet, when asked about how she wanted to feel looking back on her achievements, Vrazel said she prefers to view it as the team’s collective success.

“I want to feel like I gave it everything I had and that I come out of it with lifelong friendships with the teammates that I had,” Vrazel said. “I want to look back and feel proud about what I accomplished and what my teammates accomplished.”

PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873. His e-mail address is phayslip@dentonrc.com .

HONORING BAILEY VRAZEL

Sophomore season

TWU President’s Award

Lone Star Conference Fred Jacoby Female Academic Athlete of the Year

Daktronics All-America second team

Daktronics All-South Central Region first team

NFCA All-South Central Region second team

All-Lone Star Conference first team

Lone Star Conference Academic Player of the Year

Capital One Academic All-America second team

Capital One Academic All-District first team

NFCA Golden Shoe Award

 

Freshman season

NFCA All-America first team

Daktronics All-America second team

Daktronics South Central Region Player of the Year

NFCA All-South Central Region first team

Lone Star Conference Freshman of the Year

All-Lone Star Conference South Division first team

Lone Star Conference South Division Co-Player of the Year

NFCA Golden Shoe Award

 

Noteworthy

Led all collegiate players in steals in 2011 (74) and 2012 (75)

Three-time Lone Star Conference Hitter of the Week

 

 


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