Just to add to the excitement of a University of Wisconsin softball team fighting for a postseason spot in the NCAA tournament, a Badger player recently received some thrilling news. Senior catcher, Chloe Miller, was selected in the 2017 National Pro Fast Pitch Draft. In the 11th pick, the Akron Racers took the Iowa native.
This news of being the second player in Wisconsin softball history to be drafted into the NPF shocked Miller, who said she did not want to enter the draft and did not even declare.
“I was actually really surprised,” Miller said. “On the draft day I was just sitting in a coffee shop doing my homework and all of a sudden my phone started blowing up. I didn’t really believe it so I went back and turned the TV on to find out I had been drafted.”
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The fact that Miller was drafted at all should be no surprise to anyone. In four years at Wisconsin, Miller has played in more than 200 games and has a career batting average of .358. She has tallied 29 home runs and 176 RBIs with an on base percentage of .476 and a .628 slugging percentage.
This season, Miller has put up her best numbers of her career. Her batting average of .442 is 84 points higher than her second best average. That number also ranks second among Big Ten hitters. Miller’s on base percentage for the year is a career high .549 and her slugging percentage this year is .798, another career high.
Despite her career numbers and success throughout all four seasons, Miller did not consider the option of being drafted to play professional softball.
“It wasn’t something I was necessarily looking for,” Miller said. “Even when the coaches asked me what I thought about it, I didn’t really know. But it suddenly became a reality real quick.”
Miller also leads the team in batting average, doubles, triples, home runs, RBIs, slugging and on base percentage. Only Kelsey Jenkins has Miller beat in runs scored, by one, and walks, by nine.
Head coach, Yvette Healy, while feeling proud and enthusiastic for her senior catcher, also noted the uncommonness of a player being drafted who did not declare and attributes that to Miller’s skill.
“[I was] really excited,” Healy said. “Typically you have to let the professional league know that you’re interested. It’s pretty rare. For her name to still come up just shows the type of caliber player she is.”
The National Pro Fast Pitch League was created in 2004 and has five teams. In 13 years with the NPF, The Akron Racers have qualified for the semifinals in all but one year with a current eight years streak. The Racers last won the NPF championship in 2005.
After receiving the shocking news, Miller felt overwhelmed and looked to an important person in her life, her father, Ardie, for advice.
“We talked about the whole situation and what that means,” Miller said. “He’s really good at dealing with ‘what’s the next step’ so he kind of brought me back down to earth.”
Due to eligibility reasons and NCAA rules, Miller and Akron are not allowed to converse until this season has come to an end.
Currently, the Badgers own a record of 29-13 and a Big Ten conference record of 8-11 and sit at seventh place in the Big Ten standings through the series against Illinois. Miller and the Badgers are attempting to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014, Miller’s freshman season. The focus now is only on making the postseason.
“She’s so focused on this season and trying to get the team to the NCAA tournament and finishing out her academic career,” Healy said.
Even though her collegiate softball career will be coming to an end after the conclusion of this season, Miller still has another year of school to finish her degree. She plans to use the time between now and the end of the season to reach a decision.
“I actually have no idea [what I plan to do],” Miller said. “They can’t talk to me until my season is done and then I’ll have to give them a decision. So I still have hopefully three to four weeks to try and figure it out.”
Wisconsin will compete in the Big Ten Tournament located in Ann Arbor, Michigan starting May 11. A tournament championship would earn them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, but a loss would force the Badgers to hope for an at large bid.