Former Illini softball star goes pro in Chicago
For former University of Illinois softball infielder Allie Bauch, a journey that has led her to the professional leagues started with a memory that's as clear as yesterday.
Bauch, who walked on to the Illini softball team, showed up to her first game of the season in 2013 (against No. 1 Alabama at the Uni Dome Tournament in Cedar Falls, Iowa), not expecting to see the field for at least the first few games. Despite that, she had her "whole family" and high school coaches in attendance, and they were all surprised to find out that walk-on freshman Bauch was in the starting lineup.
"I will never forget the feeling after my name being called," Bauch told the West Cook News. "My parents started crying when I told them, and it was something I will remember forever." The surprise did not limit her play, as Bauch went 2-for-3 and drove in a run in a 7-2 loss that really swung on one grand slam and was otherwise closer than most were expecting.
That was the start of a celebrated career for Bauch at Illinois. She batted .334 in her four seasons with the Illini, and started every game in her last three seasons as the Illini second baseman (202 out of 207 games total). An area that Bauch excelled in at Illinois was extra-base hits, finishing tied for third on the team's all-time list, ending up one double away from leading that list.
Bauch left Illinois with a very powerful distinction, winning the 2016 Women's Big Ten Medal of Honor, an award that is presented to one male and one female athlete from all Big Ten sports, representing outstanding achievement in both academics and athletics. Bauch said that winning the award was an incredible experience. "It is the most prestigious award that is given in the Big Ten, and to be chosen among so many talented players and students is so humbling," Bauch said.
But her most recent accomplishment may be her best yet. After her senior season ended, Bauch tried out for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch softball league. On May 29, Bauch was informed that she had made the team, signing a one-year contract with them the next day. For the first time in her major softball career, Bauch is not starting, adjusting to the professional level while pinch-running and playing some outfield. Bauch has only one at bat, but has scored 12 runs for the Bandits.
"It definitely has been adjustment in a couple of ways," Bauch said. "Being a rookie, I have a new role on the team. So I have had to adjust from being a starter to a role player of being ready to go in whenever. I pinch-run and play the outfield at times, so I am learning a whole new role, which has challenged me to become a better player. I have learned a lot through this experience and process."
However, the experience is made all the sweeter by being able to stay in Illinois and play professional softball in Chicago. "Playing for Chicago is honestly so cool," Bauch said. "My friends and family are able to come all the time, and it just feels like home to me, which is an unbelievable experience."