ST. JOSEPH — Bailey Dowling was eight years old when she set her eyes on Tuscaloosa. Just six years later, Alabama offered the St. Joseph-Ogden freshman.
“It took a long time but that’s always been my dream school,” Dowling said. “So it was worth the wait.”
At the time, Dowling held nearly ten offers, including softball heavyweights Oregon and Oklahoma, but her allegiances always rolled with the Tide.
“Ever since the third grade, I’ve loved it,” the now 14-year old said. “I used to write letters about how I wanted to go there. I just love the coaches, I love the atmosphere, campus is so beautiful.”
So with the big decision out of the way, Dowling can focus on her goals with the Spartans, who are the state’s top ranked team in Class 2A.
“They’ve made it pretty clear,” SJO head coach Randy Wolken said. “They want to win state.”
A lofty goal but this year’s SJO squad has all the tools to do it. Along with Dowling, there are nine other Spartans signed or committed to play softball at the next level.
“This team is loaded and could be one of the best I’ve ever had,” Wolken said. “Hitting-wise, offensively I think it could be the best.”
Quite the statement from a head coach with more than 30 years of experience and who will win his 1,000th game this season. As for the team’s chemistry, Randy Wolken says it’s no battle of egos. All the talent just means a higher standard for everyone.
“I love being around people that are better than me because it pushes me,” Dowling said. “So I always go out there thinking, ‘Oh, so-and-so is better than me. This is going to push me to get better.'”
Better is exactly what Dowling hopes both she and her team will become over the season. The Spartans are still undefeated into the second week of April.
“I think about it as a game I love to play and I’m going to play it for another four years after high school,” she said. “And I go out when I practice and I work hard and I push myself to get better.”