One of the most popular segments on ESPN's SportsCenter is the Plays of the Day.
Earlier this season, Dundee-Crown graduate Jake Romano found himself in that very segment.
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Romano, a freshman outfielder at Division I Miami (Ohio), was featured after making a spectacular catch in the team's game against Dayton. The play ranked fourth on the list of Top 10 Plays of the Day.
"That was awesome," said Romano. "I made the catch and I knew it was a great catch, but I didn't know it was SportsCenter material.
Romano, who was named the Mid-American Conference freshman of the year, said the team's statistician submitted the highlight-reel catch to ESPN.
"We were waiting all night for it to be on and then it got on," he said. "It was very exciting."
Romano explained how the catch came about.
"The whole game I was playing in (in right field) a little," he said. "The wind was blowing in and coach wanted me to play in. The kid hit it opposite field and almost to the warning track. I dove and backhanded it and caught it."
That catch was part of a successful freshman campaign for Romano at Miami. He led the RedHawks in hitting with an impressive .370 batting average. In 34 games, Romano had 47 hits in 127 at-bats. Included in those 47 hits were 3 doubles and 3 triples. He also had 13 RBI and 15 walks (. 441 on-base percentage). Romano stole 8 bases in 11 attempts and made no errors in the outfield in 74 total chances.
"I've been working hard all season," he said. "I was very happy with how things turned out."
Romano said he started the season on a down note.
"I started off hitting not that good," he said. "Then we went down to Florida and I hit really well. My hitting, for sure, improved."
While playing in Florida, Romano injured his knee. He ended up missing 15 games. But when he returned, he didn't miss a beat at the plate.
"I came back and was still hitting really well," he said. "I knew the pitching at the college level would be better. I would hunt for fastballs and put the ball in play. I'd beat it on the ground and hit it in the gap and try and stretch it into a double, if not a triple."
Romano said there was an adjustment to the college game, but not as severe as expected.
"I had a lot of experience coming in with good pitching," he said. "But you still had to adjust. I felt pretty prepared for it. The biggest difference is everybody is good. There isn't one bad pitcher."
Romano is playing this summer for the Lombard Orioles team.
Miami finished the season 26-30 overall and went 14-13 in MAC play.
Kay named MVC player of the year: Bartlett graduate Elizabeth Kay capped her senior season on the Illinois State University softball team by being named the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year.
Kay also earned NFCA all-Mideast Region first-team honors. She finished her career at ISU as the program's all-time leader with 166 career RBI. She also ranks in the Top 5 all-time in games started (third with 213), home runs (third with 43) and runs scored (fourth with 126). Her single-season .428 batting average, .538 on-base percentage and .710 slugging percentage rank second, second and fifth respectively in the Redbird record books.
This past season, Kay led the MVC with a .428 batting average, .538 on-base percentage and 44 RBI. Kay also led ISU in hits (62) and home runs (10).
Mychko at Illinois: Huntley product Jenna Mychko played this past spring for the University of Illinois softball team. Mychko played in 39 games and had 19 hits in 81 at-bats. She had 2 doubles, 12 RBI and scored 5 runs. She also walked 12 times. In the field, Mychko made 1 error in 143 total chances (. 993 fielding percentage). Illinois finished the season 22-27 and went 11-12 in Big Ten Conference play.
Scott at John A. Logan: Burlington Central graduate Tanner Scott had a successful season for the John A. Logan College baseball team. Scott led the squad in hitting with a .388 batting average. In 41 games, Scott had 57 hits in 147 at-bats. Of those 57 hits, 10 were doubles and 3 were home runs. Scott scored 25 runs and had 31 RBI. He finished with a .517 slugging percentage and a .468 on-base percentage. Scott drew 23 walks and struck out only 14 times. In the field, Scott made only 2 errors in 91 chances (. 978 fielding percentage). Logan finished the year with a 32-25 mark.
Karys at Drake: Former Bartlett track standout Dan Karys is a member of the Drake University men's track and field team. Karys placed sixth in the long jump at the Missouri Valley Conference championships with a leap of 23-2. Karys was the defending outdoor conference champion.
Hardie at Winona State: Crystal Lake South graduate Kaitlin Hardie was part of a Winona State softball team that won the NCAA Division II Central 2 Region title and played in the NCAA Division II Super Regional Championship.
Hardie played in 49 games this season and hit .305 with 36 hits in 118 at-bats. She had 3 doubles, 1 homer and 24 RBI and scored 22 runs. She also had 13 walks.
McShane at Valparaiso: St. Edward graduate Tarah McShane played in 54 games this past season for the Valparaiso University softball team. McShane hit .255 with 39 hits in 153 at-bats. She tied for the team lead in doubles with 15 and also had 2 triples, 3 homers and 23 RBI. She scored 20 runs and finished with a .438 slugging percentage. In the field, McShane made no errors in 75 total chances. Valparaiso went 35-27 this season.
Bolin at Culver-Stockton: South Elgin alum Sam Bolin is a member of the Culver-Stockton softball team. This past season, Bolin hit .273 in 21 games. She had 18 hits in 66 at-bats. Included in those 18 hits were 2 doubles, 1 triple and 1 home run. She had 10 RBI and scored 6 runs. Culver-Stockton finished the season 14-25.
Off at College wants your help: Send information and/or statistics on Fox Valley-area athletes playing collegiately to Mike Miazga at firstname.lastname@example.org.