Press Release courtesy of MaxPreps:
Click here for 2016 MaxPreps All-American Softball Team
Despite playing much of the season with a sore pitching elbow that limited her time in the pitching circle, Hedgcock averaged almost two runs batted in per game, belted 22 home runs and pitched Downers Grove South to the final four in the Illinois State 4A Softball Championships.
For her efforts, the senior has been named the MaxPreps 2016 National Softball Player of the Year.
"I am ecstatic," said Hedgcock. "It's quite the honor. I am so happy about all the great things that happened this season."
The MaxPreps POY honor is one of many bestowed upon Hedgcock in 2016. She was also named the Chicago Daily Herald's POY, My Surbanlife POY and Illinois Softball Gatorade POY winner, to name a few.
In addition, she was a unanimous all-state selection for the second year in a row. Hedgcock was all-West Suburban Conference Gold Division for four seasons, a span in which her team went 47-1 in league play.
In leading the Mustangs (36-4) to a third-place state 4A finish in 2016, Hedgcock was a standout pitching and hitting. She struck out 131 batters in 95 innings, while allowing just 49 hits and posting a 0.96 ERA. She won 14 of 15 decisions, losing only in the state semifinal game. At the plate, she hit .549 with 22 home runs and 69 RBIs, plus 10 doubles and 59 runs scored.
"Caroline had one of the the most successful softball careers and certainly individual seasons I have witnessed in my tenure as head coach at Downers Grove South," said coach Ron Havelka. "She worked as hard as any athlete I have ever coached to become the premier softball player she is. I would have to say she is the best player I have coached because of what she has meant to our team during my 24-year career."
During her four varsity seasons, Hedgcock led her team to one sectional final, three Super Sectionals and the 2016 state semifinals. She set school career records in home runs (37) and RBIs (185), plus individual season marks in RBIs with 69 and home runs (22), which is third all-time in Illinois high school softball.
In four seasons, she won 62 of 75 pitching starts (Downers Grove South won 127 of 147 games) and was 47-5 during her last three years when the team was 105-9.
Hedgcock came out the winner in head-to-head competition with fellow all-Americans and Gatorade winners Katie Chronister and Miranda Elish. She also came out on top against Illinois state 4A champion Oak Park-River Forest and North Fort Meyers, another Florida powerhouse.
In those games, she homered three times, scored five times, drove in six runs and doubled. She also outdueled Chronister and Elish, totaling 14 innings with 16 strikeouts and allowing just one earned run.
"I loved the hard schedule we played this season," said Hedgcock, an Arkansas signee. "We played super amazing teams and our team responded, really coming together on four trip to Florida."
Hedgcock considered playing (and beating) the strong Florida schools and Crown Point (Ind.) as highlights of her senior season. She also picked winning the Super Sectional and beating rival Downer's Grove North as memorable.
"We lost the Super Regionals three straight years, so winning this year was wonderful," she said. "And beating North in front a huge crowd in a such a rival game was great, too."
Hedgcock said softball has helped mold her into the person she is today.
"It's made me understand work ethic," she said. "You practice as a team, you practice individually and you come home and do your homework and get to bed around midnight. And you get up and do it again the next day. It makes you appreciate what you have and what you have worked so hard to get out of it."
Hedgcock, who has been clocked at 65 mph, is expected to hit and pitch at Arkansas.
"I enjoy both, but have always considered myself a pitcher first," she said.
She has a 3.98 GPA and represents her school and community by helping underprivileged children and elderly people at an area retirement center.
"Caroline is just an all-around delightful person," said Havelka. "And one heck of a talented softball player. She is also the ultimate team player, always willing to help and give credit to her teammates."