It’s been quite the prep softball career for Carbondale’s Macie Wheeler.
She has never hit below .400 in high school ball, and the senior catcher earned a scholarship to play Division I college softball at Saint Louis University.
Although playing catcher is demanding both physically and mentally, Wheeler enjoys it and it’s also filling a need for the team.
“I like having that responsibility, and that’s what makes me love the game,” Wheeler said. “People never expect me to be a catcher when they see me because I’m one of the girly girls. But I really love calling the pitches and being involved in every play.”
Wheeler’s mom, Kim, is Carbondale’s head coach. She is also a pitching coach during high school and summer ball. But it didn’t take long for Macie to figure out that pitching wasn’t in the cards for her.
“When I was about 7 years old I tried pitching,” Wheeler said. “I told my mom if I kept on pitching, we probably wouldn’t have a relationship when I get older. So that wasn’t going to work out, but I don’t mind getting dirty behind the plate, and I kind of feel like I’m the quarterback of the team.”
Wheeler may not play catcher very much at SLU. She was recruited for her hitting and will probably be an outfielder/utility player.
“I definitely have old people knees by now, but it’s been worth it,” Wheeler said. “I’m in a lot of weight lifting too, and that helps. But I do go through a lot of ice in a year.”
Christy Connoyer is the head coach of SLU’s softball team and the former associate head coach of the SIU Salukis. Wheeler has known her for a long time, so it seemed like a natural fit to play for the Billikens.
“Whenever I found out that Coach Connoyer was going to be there it was really important because I always admired her as a coach,” Wheeler said. “Coach (Kerri) Blaylock at SIU was a big help, too. I really like the academics at SLU, and I’m a nerd so I was really into that. It’s a very artistic school, and I like that as well.”
This season, Wheeler is hitting .400 with 12 RBIs for the Terriers (6-5), who picked up a 7-0 win over South Seven Conference rival Mount Vernon last Thursday.
High school softball is quite a bit different from travel ball during the summer, which is where Wheeler proved she could play at the Division I level.
“To be able to play at the highest level in my sport is a big honor,” Wheeler said. “I was never naïve enough to think I had to play D-I, especially if I was going to get more money for scholarship somewhere else. But SLU really was my dream school, and I’m so glad it worked out.”
Wheeler and the Terriers return to the field Thursday with a home game against Belleville Althoff.