After playing two seasons of varsity softball and then transferring to Joliet Catholic Academy for her final two years, senior Mallory Goulding has developed into an expert on picking the proper school.
“The feeling you get when you walk into a place,” Goulding said, “is what makes it special for me.”
First JCA. And now …
Goulding, a pitcher and first baseman, confirmed her commitment with NAIA softball standout Benedictine College of Kansas last Wednesday on National Letter of Intent Signing Day in JCA’s Heritage Hall.
A Plainfield native, Goulding is the daughter of David and Constance. She was joined at the ceremony by baseball pitcher Chris Blatti, the son of Michael and Mary, who signed with NAIA power Joliet St. Francis.
Completing the trio was highly touted volleyball player Hailey Pennington. A Plainfield resident and the daughter of David and Cyndi, Pennington signed with NCAA Division I East Tennessee State University.
Gaining notoriety initially as a pitcher and ending up 12-5 as a junior right-hander at JCA, Goulding has grown into a terrific threat at the plate as well. She hit .380 last year and is batting .398 this spring with a .576 slugging percentage, a .459 on-base percentage, 5 doubles, 2 home runs and 18 RBIs.
“Her situation is a bit unusual,” JCA coach Dave Douglas said. “The year she transferred in, we had 10 seniors coming back and she had to fit into that mix. This year, she is one of only four seniors we have.
“In both cases, she has done a tremendous job. She has been a good leader for our youngsters and has had a good impact on them. If we have a chance to go anywhere this year, it will be because of Mal.”
Going to Kansas became an option when Goulding met her future coach playing at an All-Star game. She also used the same criteria for Benedictine that she did in looking at JCA and is happy with her choices.
“I wanted to make sure that I liked the school and I liked the campus — that I would feel at home,” Goulding said. “I like the pitching part a lot because it’s just me and I don’t think about anything else.”
Another pitcher, Blatti began his career as a catcher. Despite injuries, he has tossed 11 innings this spring for coach Jared Voss’ state-ranked Hilltopper program and has not yet allowed an earned run.
“He’s hard-working and intelligent and the way he carries himself on and off the field is impressive,” Voss said of Blatti, who struck out 30 in 43 innings a year ago. “He’s the strongest physically on our team as a pitcher, and even though he caught on our lower levels, he has never looked back on the mound.”
“I’ve caught my whole life, but I always pitched on my younger teams,” Blatti said. “From catching, you understand what to do in certain situations, and I get by. I know how to rely on my teammates.”
In her four years, Pennington passed by a slew of teammates in achieving her dream. Christine Scheibe, the coach of JCA’s nationally ranked Angels volleyball program, remembered Pennington as a freshman.
“Usually, I know the girls from summer camps, but Hailey never came to them,” Scheibe said. “In walked this tall, lanky girl who had such a passion for volleyball. She started out between the A and B teams, but she accepted her role and always worked hard. You can never question her effort, heart and character.”
As a result, Pennington is the 36th player in Scheibe’s 12 years to have earned a scholarship, including 25 to the NCAA Division I level. Still, Pennington’s recruiting journey as a senior featured a definitive twist.
“I looked at schools that recruited me, but if they didn’t have what I wanted academically, I would not go there,” said Pennington, a pre-med major. “When I looked at Eastern Tennessee, the first thing I noticed on the front page of their education was pre-med. And they have a medical school on campus.”
Despite being an outside in club, Pennington had 187 kills and 286 blocks as a middle, with her 82 block kills and 97 for her career ranking fourth and seventh on JCA’s all-time list. She was all-conference in the East Suburban Catholic, all-tournament at Autumnest and first team all-area by the Herald-News.
“My favorite match was Mother McAuley,” Pennington said of her 5 kills and 4 block kills in the Angels’ season-opening 25-22, 22-25, 25-11 win. “I still look back on that third game and I can’t believe how well I came out and played. I sometimes look back on that film and I can’t believe how far I have come here.”