Abilene Christian spent the last four years in proverbial postseason purgatory; reclassified from Division 2 into the Division I ranks, the Wildcats were ineligible for the postseason for four years following the move.
As his team sought to make their mark at the Division I level, ACU head coach Bobby Reeves quickly learned that he could count on his pitching being some of the best in the Southland Conference.
Redshirt senior Hannah Null joined the Wildcats in 2014, without a hope of postseason in her career trajectory. It was a process that she calls “frustrating… it was tough to place so high and then see other teams take our spot.”
Nevertheless, and in spite of her team’s postseason ineligibility, Null says she never considered another school during the recruitment process. “In complete honesty, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to play college softball until I met Coach Reeves,” Null said. “They tell you not to pick a school based on the coach, but that’s what I did and it worked out for me… I also wanted to go to a school that I knew would give me a life outside of the game and challenge me to grow, and I felt like ACU could do that.”
Null’s freshman season was a fine one in 2014, as she earned an all-Southland honorable mention honor and throwing the program’s first no-hitter in fourteen years. Just as her career looked to be beginning to take off, tragedy struck: A right leg injury would require surgery, ending her sophomore season before it even began.
“A tough year”; that’s how Null describes sitting out a full season, so early in her career. “It killed me not being able to help out my team,” she said.
At the same time, there were silver linings. “I learned a lot about the game, though,” Null added. “I sat next to coach [Reeves] in the dugout, watched him call pitches, and studied different hitters’ approaches… I felt like while everyone else was getting better, I was moving backwards; it lit a fire under me to push harder once I was released [to begin pitching again].”
After her injury, which ultimately required a pair of surgeries, Null was given a 50% chance of being able to pitch again successfully. Nine months of rehab and therapy followed before she was even allowed to pick up a ball and pitch once again. Admittedly, “it wasn’t very pretty,” she said.
“I pretty much had to completely relearn how to pitch,” Null said. “It was physically and mentally exhausting but the feeling of being back on the field with my team made up for it all.”
In her first season back from the disabled list, it seemed like Null never missed a beat. She picked up right where she left off, earning the second all-conference award of her career, this time a nomination to the Southland’s third team. She finished in the conference’s statistical top ten in seven different categories and gathered 125 strikeouts, a number that ranked #4 in the conference.
Now in her redshirt senior season, Null not only has had the chance to taste the postseason – thanks to the inaugural National Invitational Softball Championship in 2017 – but has her Wildcats in the thick of the conference race, searching for their first-ever opportunity to play in the conference and NCAA postseason.
“We can still go to the [Southland conference] tournament and take care of our business there,” Null said. “We are trying to set small goals each game and work our way up from there, and so far, it’s been working. These girls are so hardworking and haven’t given up. I’m proud of my team and proud to be a Wildcat.”
Photo via ACU Athletics/Tim Nelson. Used by permission.