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UNI Star Emmy Wells Prepared To Lead From The Dugout In 2023

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(Photo courtesy of Northern Iowa Athletics)

Ahead of the 2023 college softball season, Emmy Wells was ready to build off her remarkable and record-breaking sophomore campaign. The University of Northern Iowa junior became the first player ever in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) to not only win the MVC Player of the Year award, but also the MVC Defensive Player of the Year award in the same year. She led the Panthers in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, OPS and putouts.

However, things don't always go as planned.

At first, Wells thought her arm was just sore. She told her coaches that she would be fine if she just threw at 80%. But, when her teammates noticed that all her throws were veering off to the right, it was clear that something was wrong. After some tests, it was revealed that she would need Tommy John surgery, which meant Wells needed to take a year off from softball.

“I’m definitely a little frustrated,” said Wells. “What athlete wouldn’t be if you’re telling them you have to sit out for a year.”

The Indiana native came to Cedar Falls, Iowa from a small high school in Valparaiso and grew up playing basketball as well as softball. Wells said that she was drawn to the school because she could tell that it was a place where people worked hard. And while what she'll be doing this coming season isn’t exactly the type of hard work Wells envisioned, she said that it'll be an opportunity to learn, and she’s determined to make the most of it.

“I’m definitely going to have to take up a different kind of role on the team,” said Wells. “I’ll help with scouting, whatever the coaches put me on. I’ll help in any way I can.”

One advantage of being off the field is the ability to see the game from different angles. According to Wells, she has already tried to learn new tips and tricks by hanging out in the bullpen and watching the pitchers from behind, instead of always being the catcher and having to haul in each pitch.

Could she be another pitching coach in the dugout this season? Maybe, maybe not.

“I don’t know if I can say that,” laughed Wells. “I help them in any way I can. I like working with them. I think they like having me in there.”

According to Wells, she is not a huge talker. Other than talking to fellow fielders for defensive purposes, she’s not the player you’ll hear shouting in the dugout and trying to hype everyone up. For right now, she is most comfortable helping the pitchers. However, being in a new role, she realizes that might mean doing new things.

“Maybe I’ll have to talk more,” said Wells. “Maybe I could just talk to people individually. But any little thing I see I’m going to do it, and that’s just my approach for now.”

When she’s on the field, Wells has a knack for hitting bombs. Of her 38 hits in 2022, half of them were home runs. And many of them, according to Wells, were high, towering shots, not line drives, which is something she attributes to the team’s work with metrics and launch angles.

“I think I just really focus on my swing and making it consistent,” said Wells. “And I think most of it honestly comes from an approach because I’ve seen girls that are half my size be able to do the same thing I can, so I don’t really rely on my power, even though I know it helps me out.”

Wells is not the only power hitter for the Panthers, however. Sophomore Mya Dodge is returning in 2023, coming off a solid freshman season, during which she ranked second on the team in home runs with 13 and first in hits and batting average. Junior hurler Kailyn Packard is also back for another season after leading the team in wins last season with a 20-6 record and in strikeouts with 205. The UNI squad dominated conference play last season going 22-2 overall and is looking to make the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

While Wells won’t be on the field this spring, she is prepared for what is ahead of her.

“For the foreseeable future, all I have in front of me is work,” Wells said. “It’s not something that I’m going to shy away from.”

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