Elite pitcher earns partial scholarship to Northern Illinois
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Delani Vest is not quite done impressing on the softball diamond.
After originally planing to join the softball outfit at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove for the upcoming 2012-13 school year, Vest took a partial scholarship offer to play Huskie softball at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
Vest, who was an important cog in the Lady Knight softball machine the past four years, as well as the Northern Illinois Big XII Most Valuable Player in 2012, said it came about quite suddenly.
“I was planning to commute to Waubonsee, but my travel team is well-known (the Wasco Diamonds), and Christina Sutcliffe, the new (NIU) coach, had seen some local teams and offered me a scholarship,” Vest said.
Rather than mow down opposing batters in a Huskie uniform, Vest looks to break batters’ spirit by nabbing ground balls as an infielder.
“I’m used to playing in the infield, and have played it for my travel team for the last three years,” Vest said.
Wasco Diamonds 18U coach Steve Cihlar is familiar with what Vest brings.
“She’s been entrenched there for three years for our 18U team and will go to college having played well over 250 games there against top competition. NIU is getting a player that has major college talent,” Cihlar said.
Vest joins an NIU team that finished 19-34 and 7-15 in Mid-American Conference play a year ago. Sutcliffe joined the team in June after seven years as an assistant coach for Miami University of Ohio.
Vest, a 2012 Kaneland graduate, won 20 games for the Lady Knights squad and made things happen in the lineup itself as a leadoff hitter in a year that saw the KHS group reach the Belvidere North Sectional.
As a college student, future Division I athlete, and mother to her son, Braden, born during the 2010-2011 softball season, Vest was relieved, excited and thankful for continued support.
“I think it was a little bit of everything. It’s going to be a little easier as a commuter for the first season. It was a Division I scholarship, and the travel is obviously more, but it was such a great opportunity. I want it so bad. I have my family, and Braden, and everyone has been so supportive,” Vest said.
Vest knows the prestige that comes to the Kaneland program as someone who makes it to the next level.
“Everyone on the softball team could have gone to play somewhere in college, and there were a lot of teammates like my sister (Rilee, at Cornell College), and players going back before me,” Vest said.
With an opportunity on the horizon, Vest has her goal and an opportunity right in front of her, and will see what she has in this intial year of college softball.
“Right now in this first year, I’ll commute from home. We’ll see how I do and see about coming to DeKalb the next year. But, we’ll take it as it comes,” Vest said.