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Miranda Elish ‘surprised’ by Player of the Year honor; will return to Texas for extra year of eligibility
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COLLEGE SOFTBALL

Miranda Elish ‘surprised’ by Player of the Year honor; will return to Texas for extra year of eligibility

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The odds were stacked in Miranda Elish’s favor to get to this point, yet she was still surprised.

A three-time Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year recipient and rated the No. 1 recruit in the country by Flo Softball as a senior at Crown Point, Elish has lived up to her billing.

She was 37-2 in two seasons at Oregon, reaching the Women’s College World Series both years, but reached the pinnacle, so far, of her career at Texas.

It was as a Longhorn, this season, when she became the only pitcher to beat reigning champion UCLA on its home field. She threw her second career perfect game in the season finale.

On Wednesday she was named NCAA Player of the Year by Softball America.

“I didn't know that they were doing honors for the season being cut short. I was super surprised (and) I was super honored because I know that they're amazing players in college softball, and there are a lot of people who are just as deserving of it as I am,” Elish told The Times. “So just for Softball America to see my performance is worthy of receiving that award, it means a ton.”

Crown Point native Miranda Elish named Softball America's 2020 Player of the Year

A star in the circle and the batter’s box, Elish led the Longhorns to a 24-3 record. They finished the season as the top-ranked team in the country, according to Softball America. Like the rest of the sports world, Texas had its season ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Elish threw a perfect game on March 8, retiring all 21 New Mexico hitters she faced, striking out 10, for her 11th win of the season.

“Of course no one wanted their season to be cut short — and the NCAA did what was in the best interests of us for our health and everything,” Elish said. “If that was my last game ever, I would have peace in my heart knowing that the last game I ever played, our team went out on such a high note and we just really played together that day, like we do most days.

“So not disappointed that it was the last game of the season, just disappointed that our team couldn't make the run that we were going to make the season but there's next season and there's a light at the end of this tunnel.”

As spring sport seniors face the difficult decision of returning to college for an extra year of eligibility or pursuing their careers, Elish had her mind made up before the NCAA voted on March 30 to allow the extra year.

“Once that vote came through on March 30, I knew that I was coming back; I wanted to come back (and) I wanted to go out on my own terms, and I'm really lucky and really grateful to the NCAA and Chris Del Conte, our athletic director, and our coaching staff for allowing me and presenting me with that opportunity to come back,” Elish said.

Region's professional and college basketball players try to stay in game shape

The now-two-time All-American was planning her future to become a sales representative for one of the premier softball companies. She wants to give back to the game that has given her so much.

“Eventually I would have liked to be the product rep between college softball teams and whatever sporting goods company just to stay within sport and to help athletes find their best fit or products and succeed and that was my goal. And eventually, I would like to open up my own training facility just to develop girls that will eventually be the future of softball.”

Those talks are currently on hold as she gears up for one more season and another shot at winning a national championship. The Longhorns earned the season’s top ranking by beating some of the top teams in the country with wins over then-No. 1 UCLA, then-No. 2 Washington, then-No. 10 Louisana, then-No. 12 Tennessee and then-No. 13 Michigan.

But that doesn’t mean anything as Texas turns the page for next season.

“Yeah, we're in the national spotlight, but we just have to take it game by game. We can't make any game bigger than it is and we also can't get high on our horse just because we are like a very highly-touted program and we're ranked,” Elish said. “We have to just play the game and respect the game. Play the game how it’s supposed to be played because anybody can beat anybody on any given day ... We can't drink our own Kool-Aid as Coach (Mike) White says. We just have to play the game, respect it and the results will come.”

Damien Jefferson's special season at Creighton ended; Eugene German's historic Northern Illinois career stopped

White recruited Elish to Oregon and when he accepted the job at Texas following the 2018 season, Elish entered the transfer portal. It’s been a beneficial move for her to join him in Austin.

The senior was tied for sixth in the country in wins with an 11-3 record and was tied for 12th in the country with four shutouts. She had a 1.25 ERA and opposing hitters hit .158 against her, while striking out 96 hitters in 84 innings. At the dish, she hit .370 with seven doubles, four home runs, 19 RBIs and a 1.200 OPS.

Her four-year career has been special. She is 76-15, including 31 shutouts with a 1.38 ERA. Opponents are hitting .180 off of her and she has 669 strikeouts in 610 innings.

She believes the support from the Region is what makes it all possible.

“I'm extremely grateful to have experienced two great schools and I'm super super grateful for Texas for taking me in as one of their own,” Elish said. “They have made me feel so welcomed.

“And I just want the people from the Region to know I feel all of your support and your love and I'm so lucky to have this area in my corner and constantly supporting me. And I'm doing it for them. Northwest Indiana has been recently on the map for the athletes we're producing and it comes a lot from just the support we get from our community and their love for sports that makes me so, so proud to be from Crown Point and from the Region. We have special people up here and if it wasn't for all of their support, none of us would be where we are.”

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