ST. JOSEPH (WCIA) — Records are meant to be broken and Bailey Dowling is well on her way to rewriting the Illinois high school softball record books. After only two seasons, she’s already moved into the top 15 of career home runs, only 17 shy of the all-time state record of 60.
“I just go out there and play because it’s fun and I love being with my team,” Dowling said. “When I get up to bat I just tell myself, ‘The pitcher is going down, I’m gonna win this.’ Each time I don’t really go for home runs, I just go for a base hit or get on base.”
“She’ll break a lot of state records and a lot of SJO records,” St. Joseph-Ogden softball coach Randy Wolken said. “Which, we’ve had a great tradition here so it’s not like you’re just coming into a program that’s thrown the ball out. We’ve had some great plays and she’s the best player that we’ve had.”
Dowling will be the first to admit she doesn’t get caught up in the stats or records during the season. At the end of each year, head coach Randy Wolken hands out an SJO record book though, and the Alabama commit looks that over closely.
“I just look at the top and then I go from the top down and see who’s at the top and it’s my goal to be up there every year,” Dowling said.
Dowling’s name is already all over that book but so is Nicki Bryant, or as most know her now, Nicki Dowling. Bailey’s mom also played for Wolken at SJO, winning team MVP in 1991.
“Nicki was a great athlete, maybe better in basketball than even in softball and she was a tremendous softball player,” Wolken said. “Very, very competitive. When I say competitive I’m saying with a capital C, she did not like to lose. And that’s where a lot of the competitiveness comes for Bailey, is from Nicki.”
“He (Wolken) would always tell me, ‘Your mom would just get on her teammates.’ Like not in a bad way, obviously, but if they were not in the game or they weren’t focused or talking about something else, she would just get on them. And coach would just walk away laughing,” Bailey Dowling said.
Wolken has been a part of Dowling’s life a lot longer than just high school, she remembers her first few times going to Randy Wolken field to watch the Spartans. So the surprising news of his retirement hit the sophomore hard.
“A huge impact,” Dowling said. “I remember at our banquet when he first said he’s retiring, it was heartbreaking and I cried. So did a lot of other people. I tweeted something and said that he’s always been there, through all the ups and downs no matter what it is, not even softball related. He’s just an awesome guy.”
They both know he will still be a part of the SJO softball program, but now from the bleachers instead of the dugout. Dowling is looking forward to her final two years at SJO under a new head coach.