Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Heidi Foland’s decision to play college softball was a fluke, based purely on gut-feeling and faith alone.
Prior to signing with the Huskers, Foland was a three-sport stand-out for Grand Island High School. She played softball in the fall and soccer in the spring, while devoting her winter and summer months fully to basketball.
A basketball letterwinner for the Islanders, Foland became the first 1,000-point scorer in Grand Island girls’ basketball history. In 2007, she even helped her team to its first state appearance since the 2002 season. Heading into her senior season, Foland had several Division II basketball scholarships on the table.
However, her passion for softball kept Foland from accepting a basketball scholarship right away.
Foland’s success on the diamond mirrored her success on the court. She had a stellar softball prep career, starting all four years for Grand Island and earning 2005 Class A honorable-mention all-state honors and 2006 first-team all-state honors. Her senior season stats were impeccable, as she hit .420 with a .536 slugging percentage. Foland struck out just twice in 112 at bats and added 30 stolen bases, 22 runs scored, 16 RBI and nine doubles during her senior season.
Despite her softball success, Foland had not given college softball a serious thought. However, mid-way through her senior softball season, her basketball dreams faded away when she had a gut feeling to further her career on the diamond.
“The reason why I had that feeling to switch from basketball to softball was because I felt like God was telling me to go in that direction and that was my way to go in life,” Foland said. “That was His way.”
On the bus ride home following a tournament in Lincoln, Foland decided to tell Grand Island Coach Chris Raabe her new plans to play college softball.
“Sure enough, the same night I talked to my coach about playing softball, he had a voicemail from Coach (Rhonda) Revelle asking about me,” Foland said. “It was a fluke thing. Coach Revelle was at the tournament in Lincoln. She saw me play that night, but I didn’t know she was there. It was really weird.”
It didn’t take long for Foland to decide on Scarlet and Cream after Revelle offered her a scholarship to play for Nebraska.
Upon arriving at Nebraska, Foland began taking advice and gaining insight from then-NU volunteer assistant coach Amanda Buchholz, who earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors as the Huskers’ short stop from 2000-03.
“My biggest softball influence is Amanda Buchholz,” Foland said. “I admire the passion she has for the sport and her competitiveness. She and I are pretty much alike. I look up to her.”
Foland learned from Buchholz’s competitive spirit and immediately earned a spot in the Husker lineup as a third base infielder. She started 52 out of 53 games her freshman season and finished the season with a .252 average and 11 RBI.
Foland was again a threat in the Husker lineup during her sophomore season, starting 42 games and posting a slugging average of .417 in 2009.
As Foland entered her junior season, she looked forward to a breakout season. However, with the loss of 2009 senior Crystal Carwile, an All-Big 12 player at first base, and the addition of freshman Gabby Banda, Foland was forced to transition to first base to fill Carwile’s absence and open up a spot at third for Banda. Despite the change, Foland’s athleticism, gained through high school basketball and soccer, helped make her switch to first base much easier.
“Every sport I played in high school correlates in helping me with my quickness and agility,” Foland said. “I did weightlifting in high school, so that helped when I got to college. I think soccer and basketball have helped a lot with my mobility and quickness at first base. It took me a little while to get used to the bigger glove (at first base), but other than that, it wasn’t a real big transition. You don’t get as many balls over there. You get a little more time to think and relax than you do at third.”
Foland’s athleticism also plays a key role in her time at the plate. She has already proven her ability to dominate as a batter this season, hitting .398 with 19 RBI, eight home runs and six doubles heading into Big 12 play. Ranking among the top 10 players in the Big 12 in six offensive categories, she has also set career highs this season in runs (32), hits (41) and home runs (8), has tied her career-high in doubles (6) and needs only one more RBI to tie her career high.
Although Foland’s decision to play college softball may have been on a whim, her already record-setting junior season has proven that her faith in the game was spot-on.