By: Greg Levinsky
Calling the first half of Madi Killebrew’s junior season a success would be an understatement. As an upperclassman, she was in search of consistency.
Over her first two seasons, Killebrew endured multiple shoulder surgeries, limiting her to just two contests in her freshman season and a sophomore campaign in which she dealt with nagging arm issues throughout the season, and she was not cleared to field.
However, the 2018 season has been full of success. It began with surpassing her career hit total in the first six games of the season.
She went 8-53 (.150) over her first two years, but began 2018 with a 9-24 (.375) start. Her blistering start is not an aberration.
“Just tying to remain consistent and getting on however I can,” Killebrew said. “Whether it’s getting hit by a pitch, walk, base hit, whatever. Just doing what I can for the team.”
Third-year head coach Ashley Waters said that Killebrew has been a major factor in the Terriers (18-16, 2-1 Patriot League) batting order and believes Killebrew could be in the coveted third spot in the order from day one. Once Killebrew got healthy, she seized an opportunity.
“It was almost as if every single time she was feeling good and kind of caught her stride, there would be an issue,” Waters said. “I feel like this year is the first year you could tell that she started to feel good, started to come into her own again.”
Through now a career-best 34 games, Killebrew is batting .327 (35-107) with 11 doubles and 12 RBI. Her dazzling display has put her on base in 26 of 34 appearances and includes a seven-game hitting streak during mid-March. She’s locked in her spot as the everyday third-baseman, earning that coveted third hitter in the order on a gamely basis.
“It’s amazing for me, because it’s felt like such a long time since I’ve had that consistency,” Killebrew said. “Being able to keep it is such a good feeling and gives me confidence from game to game.”
“She did a great job early on,” Waters said. “I think she came out of the gates the first weekend and really left her mark.”
Consistency certainly helped her take on that role.
The Dana Point, Calif. native’s nine multi-hit games is good for third on the team behind former Patriot League All-Conference honorees junior catcher Alex Heinen (13) and senior outfielder Emma Wong (11). She bats third in the lineup behind Heinen and senior shortstop Brittany Younan.
In 2017, injuries forced many players into unfamiliar positions. Now, the team is healthy and everyone is back at their natural defensive spots.
Protected by Younan, Heinen, Wong, 2017 Patriot League Player of the Year Jilee Schanda and multi-year starters Alexa Ponce, Kaitlin Sahlinger and Emily Morrow, Killebrew’s confidence stems off the depth of the lineup. The Terriers currently lead the Patriot League with a .278 average and the squad leads the Patriot League in hits, doubles, triples, RBI and OBP.
“Everyone’s super supportive and I know even if I mess up I have great people around me to pick me up when I’m down and not doing as well as I’d like,” Killebrew said.
Killebrew tore her labrum in her left shoulder diving for a ball during her senior year of high school. Unaware until arriving at BU, she had surgery in the Spring of 2016 to fix the labrum. The shoulder had dislocated countless times before and after surgery, resulting in another surgery.
She was finally cleared to field this spring.
Waters added, “To sit on the sidelines for two years and watch everyone play and finally have the opportunity, I don’t think there was anyone who was going to get in her way. She was fighting for it every single day.”
For Killebrew, her time away from the game cemented her of her passion for it.
“I didn’t realize how much I loved softball until I couldn’t play it, she said. “That experience really drives me to keep going.”
Through the ups and downs of a high-level athlete’s career, Killebrew understood her setbacks were temporary and fighting through them was the only option.
“Injuries don’t define me as a player, everyone has to go through obstacles, so that was just my thing,” Killebrew said. “I’m just grateful for the time that I have now to play the sport that I love.”