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Dana Wei­dinger is a freshman softball player from Bath, Ohio. She is studying mar­keting man­agement and was recently named GLIAC Pitcher of the Week. (Photo: Hillsdale Ath­letics / Courtesy)

How did you develop an interest for softball?

I started playing softball when I was 5 years old, playing tee-ball on a grass field with friends from ele­mentary school. I started pitching when I was 8. From there I fell in love with being able to control the time and speed of the game and having a defense behind me. I loved being there for my team, and they would back me up on every­thing I do.

Do you have a favorite memory from your softball career?

My junior year of high school, we were playing a rival school. I was pitching this entire game that went on for 11 innings. In the fifth inning, I hit a home run to tie the game 1 – 1. Then in the 11th inning, we had a person on third base, and my best friend hit a line drive to center field to win the game. It was the cra­ziest game I’ve ever had to go through. It was really hard to focus the whole time because I’d never pitched an 11-inning game. That game just made me want to go further in the sport. That’s why I went into college softball. I can’t imagine life without that feeling — the feeling of a team win.

How has softball shaped your life?

I feel that it has given me an out to all of the stress that school can put on you. It’s very relaxing every time I step on the field. It just feels like home, and I know I have my team backing me up. Softball has also shaped my rela­tionship with my family, too, and brought us together; every weekend we’d travel together for games. I’ve also made so many friends over the years with all the dif­ferent teams I’ve been on. I feel this team at Hillsdale has the strongest friendship. All the upper­classmen opened their arms to us freshmen like we were family. 

What drew you to Hillsdale?

I was orig­i­nally born in Michigan, and we moved to Ohio for my dad’s job, but I always loved it here. Coach Joe came and saw me pitch, and I thought he was very per­sonable — I was very nervous, but he cracked jokes to relieve the tension. Then I visited campus and fell in love with the scenery and the people here. Everyone was so nice, smiling at you when you walked past them, and I liked how small the campus is, because I don’t want to be just a number. I like that you can build rela­tion­ships with your pro­fessors, and I loved the team the first time I met them. I prac­ticed with them before I came here, and everyone was so nice and per­sonable, cheering me on when I was on the mound, and it just felt like I was sup­posed to be here. I am so happy with my decision; I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It’s the perfect fit for me.

Is it hard to balance ath­letics with aca­d­emics?

The first couple weeks were very tricky. We had our 5 a.m. lifts, and I was not used to getting up that early, but the team was there moti­vating us. I realized I have to have a set schedule for study times and practice and also a social life, because that’s important, too. It was really hard when I first got here, but a month into the season, I feel like I have a schedule down. 

What was your reaction to being named GLIAC Pitcher of the Week?

I was com­pletely sur­prised. I opened up Instagram, and it was right there, and I was like, “That’s not me.”  I wasn’t expecting it at all. It was all a team win because without my team, I couldn’t have won this award. They had my back 100 percent. It was a really big honor.

What helps you succeed in softball?

When I’m on the mound, it’s almost like a circle and every­thing else goes blank. It’s a weird vision, almost. I can’t hear any­thing; it’s kind of a com­plete zone. My coaches said they’ve never seen so much focus. If someone starts talking to me, I can’t hear them. All I can see is a small square where the glove’s sitting, and I just throw the ball to it.

How do you hope to grow ath­let­i­cally and oth­erwise at Hillsdale?

I would like to have more wins than losses. I’m focusing on getting a lower ERA, too. And I want to be there for my team. It’s a new team, and we have mostly freshman pitchers. I think we’re getting better at com­mu­ni­cating with each other. I feel our com­mu­ni­cation already growing. I’d like to have a high number of strikeouts and not a lot of walks. Outside of softball, I’d like to grow my con­fi­dence level in my studies. I first got here and thought, “Oh my gosh, it’s Hillsdale.” It’s a lot of aca­demic focus, and it’s dif­ferent from any­thing I’ve been through. I want to get better study habits.