Dwight vs. GSW SOFT

Dwight’s Abby Edwards delivers a pitch during the first inning of a 6-2 win against Gardner-South Wilmington in a Class 1A regional semifinal. Edwards earned Daily Journal Player of the Year honors after a keeping .581 average at the plate and striking out 213 batters in the circle.

DWIGHT — Every once in a while, an athlete comes through high school and completely changes the complexion of an athletic program.

Dwight and its softball team were lucky enough to feature one of the top players, not just in the Sangamon Valley Conference nor the area, but one of the best in the state.

Standout athlete Abby Edwards spent the past four years striking fear into opposing pitchers, and she saved her best season for last.

Her efforts helped the Trojans finish 26-7, their best record since 2012, and reach a Class 1A sectional final.

That’s just a small reason why Edwards is the Daily Journal’s 2018 Player of the Year.

“We had a great season this year. It just unfortunately ended sooner than we wanted it to,” Dwight coach Chuck Trainor said. “But without Abby, we don’t make it that far. Opposing teams could never figure her out when she was in the circle, and at the plate. If she got a hold of the ball, it was going somewhere far.”

Edwards took over full-time pitching duties entering her junior year and quickly established herself as one of the best, finishing with 203 strikeouts on top of a 0.87 ERA.

At the plate, she finished with a .512 batting average, including 11 home runs and 32 RBIs.

Fast forward to this year, and all she did was improve.

She capped this season with a 21-5 record inside the circle while carrying a 1.80 ERA and striking out 213 batters. And just when you thought it was impossible for her to top her junior year batting numbers, that’s exactly what she did.

Teams insisted on challenging her, and she made them pay, finishing with a .581 average alongside 11 home runs and 43 RBIs.

“She was walked more than 30 times this year, so her numbers possibly could have been better,” Trainor said. “Her work ethic is unlike anything I’ve seen before. I have a cage at my shop, and she would come in during the off-season four times a week and work for two or three hours on her craft, whether it was pitching or hitting off a tee. You don’t find girls like her that have the grit and determination to be where she wants to be.”

Great players can be taken for granted from time to time. Watching them play day after day, it sometimes becomes routine to see them produce every single game.

Trainor watched Edwards play 33 times this year, and against quality opponents. And each day, no matter what class level Dwight’s opponent may have been in, the senior made her job look easy.

“We played in a three-game tournament in Mount Zion against two 3A teams and a 4A team,” Trainor said. “We knew it was going to be some stiff competition and Mount Zion eventually finished fourth in the state in Class 3A at the end of its season. Although we didn’t win any of those games, it was amazing to watch Abby keep those teams off-balance and continue giving us a chance to win. She pitched every single game that day and didn’t shy away from the challenge.”

Edwards muscled through that day just as she did the entire season. Perhaps no player was more valuable to their team than Edwards was to the Trojans.

Now that her time in Dwight has come to an end, a new chapter begins as she will play at the collegiate level for the University of Pittsburgh.

“She left such an impression on a number of our players,” Trainor said. “She showed that hard work will get you places. I admire the way she goes about handling her business. She deserves everything she has coming towards her because of the work she puts in.”

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