Prep Softball

Player of the Year: Illini West standout Dooley develops into imposing offensive threat

After hitting .515 with 15 doubles, four triples and nine home runs and stealing 37 of 38 bases, Illini West standout Daytona Dooley — the 2019 Herald-Whig Player of the Year — established herself as one of the area's most imposing all-around offensive talents. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 8, 2019 1:20 am Updated: Jun. 8, 2019 1:26 am

CARTHAGE, Ill.

Her eyes twinkle just a little more. Her smile widens just a little more. Her nervous energy makes her body bounce just a little more.

Get Daytona Dooley talking about softball and the passion can't be contained.

"She loves the game," said her father, Scott. "She never doesn't want to play. She wants to perform. She wants to be good."

Such passion is the perfect complement to her natural talent, and both leave a lasting impression.

"When she tries out for an AAU team or an exposure team, usually one of the comments we get is, ‘Even if she wasn't as talented as she is, we'd still want her because of the energy she brings to the team and to the field,'" Scott said. "You can't teach that. That's all her."

It's true love pouring forth.

"With everything I have," Dooley said. "I've never loved anything more."

She's never worked harder at anything either.

The Illini West senior battled back from a knee injury that cost Dooley her entire junior season to again become one of the area's most imposing offensive forces. A .515 batting average, a 1.000 slugging percentage and near-perfect stolen base percentage helped earn her the 2019 Herald-Whig Player of the Year, but it's only a sign of what's to come.

She takes the short trip to Macomb in the fall, ready to join the Western Illinois University softball program with every intention of helping the Leathernecks climb to the top of Summit League. The healthier her left knee gets and the more comfortable she becomes pushing it to its limit will only make her more of a factor.

"I'm ready to push myself to be the new player they want me to be," Dooley said. "I'm ready to figure out my role on that team and see what they need me to do in order for us to be successful."

Her role likely won't change much. She'll need to be aggressive, smart and opportunistic at the plate and on the basepaths, much like she was this past spring.

Dooley led the Chargers to a 26-7 record by hitting .515 with 15 doubles, four triples and nine home runs. She also walked 24 times, drove in 34 runs and scored 52 times. She created havoc on the basepaths, stealing 37 of 38 bases.

Yet, she felt she could have done more.

"I tried to hold myself to a higher standard," she said. "I felt I needed to perform better than I did my sophomore year. Even at the end of the year when we were looking at the stats, there was a little bit of disappointment in myself because my sophomore year I felt I did better and I did more.

"I was more Daytona then. I'm getting back to being that. I still felt this season was great, but I want to hold myself to that higher standard so I'm never satisfied."

It's pressure, but it's not all consuming.

"This is what I'm here for. This is my job," Daytona said. "This is what I love to do. I don't think I ever put so much pressure on myself that it becomes a reason I don't perform, but the pressure I put on myself makes me perform.

"It really helped me, by the middle of the season, get into a groove."

It's the kind of groove that's helped her make a little history.

Dooley joins her father as past Player of the Year recipient. Scott Dooley played shortstop at Southeastern and was shared the 1988 Player of the Year honor in baseball with Quincy High School's Lyle Martin and Quincy Notre Dame's Chris Klingele.

Scott also played fastpitch softball and helped introduce his daughter to the game. He's been there to help her every step of the way since, as has her entire family.

"Those words ... it's indescribable to have a support system like I do," Dooley said. "To have parents who sacrifice financially, time-wise and mentally for what you want to do, wow. They are in this mentally, physically and emotionally as much as I am. It's appreciated more than words can explain."