All Lyndsey Dothager really wanted to do was go out with a bang.
She wound up making a dream come true.
The recent Mulberry Grove grad was having the week of her life at the recent North American Fastpitch Association 18-and-under National Tournament.
But after going unsigned despite a breakthrough senior season at MGHS, Dothager figured she might well be playing her last organized softball game when her summer traveling team, the Mulberry Grove Jaguars, took the field in an elimination game in the national tournament in St. Louis.
Dothager was planning on attending Eastern Illinois University in the fall. She was hoping to make the Division-I Panthers’ roster as a walk-on, or possibly playing some intramural ball if that didn’t work out.
But one last opportunity to impress a college coach presented itself to Dothager during her final game with her longtime Mulberry Grove friends and teammates, as McKendree University coach Evelyn Bean was in the stands watching one of her recruits.
Little did Dothager know, she’d soon be another Bearcat recruit following a perfect 4-for-4 day at the plate that included a homer and two doubles.
‘She came up and said, ‘You’d make a great addition to our team,” Dothager said. ‘It was such a great surprise and I was so happy.’
Dothager knew Bean was on hand before the game began, but says impressing the coach wasn’t in the forefront of her mind.
‘I didn’t want to overthink it, because I knew I’d get really nervous,’ Dothager said. ‘My main concern was being my best in the last opportunity to play with girls I’ve been playing with my whole life.’
That approach wound up changing Dothager’s life.
‘It was one of those things where it was like it was meant to be,’ Mulberry Grove coach John Barnes said.
With Dothager’s signing, all three of Mulberry Grove’s 2008 seniors have now committed to play college ball. Slugger Rachel Brewer will suit up for Greenville College, while pitcher Brittany Crandell will play at Kaskaskia College.
Unlike her two classmates, Dothager was a bit of a late bloomer.
‘She is proof that hard work pays off,’ Barnes said. ‘That’s the big thing about her.
‘She was really one of those kids that earned a spot. She worked hard to earn a spot.’
Dothager didn’t earn a full-time starting role until her junior year, when she volunteered to move to third base to fill a void in Barnes’ lineup.
She soon turned herself into an outstanding defensive player at her new position.
‘Her defense is stellar,’ Barnes said. ‘She got to the point where she was money over there.’
Dothager also developed into a dangerous hitter by her senior season, as she hit well over .400 with 20-plus RBIs.
‘Maybe for another club she would have led the team in hitting,’ said Barnes, who had one of the top-hitting teams in the state again last season.
Thanks to her breakthrough senior season, Dothager wound up hitting .387 with 12 doubles, two triples and 42 RBI in her prep career.
She helped Mulberry Grove win four conference championships, two regional titles and advance to a sectional title game for the first time in program history.
‘My high school career was the best anybody could have wanted,’ Dothager said.
She was also a summer-league fixture for the Jaguars for five years.
‘That’s where she really developed,’ Barnes said.
Now, Bean is confident she can continue improving at the collegiate level.
‘She played for a great program in high school, and we’ve had players from there in the past that have been very successful at McKendree,’ Bean said. ‘We expect her to do the same.’
Also a standout in the classroom, Dothager earned a four-year Presidential Scholarship from McKendree. She plans on majoring in communications.
‘They put together an awesome financial aid package,’ Dothager said.
Dothager joins another local player, St. Elmo grad Chelsy Durbin, on the Bearcats’ roster. McKendree is coming off a 24-18 season.