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Mikkola making her mark
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Photo courtesy of TWU athletics Emily Mikkola was an instant force for Tennessee Wesleyan as a freshman. Mikkola hit .385 with 12 RBIs in 11 starts before her season was cut short last week.
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Emily Mikkola was a two-time District 6AAA infielder of the year as shortstop of the Lady Pioneers. She took her talents to the hot corner at TWU, playing 3B in all 10 starts this season.

Season by season, year after year, Emily Mikkola cycled through sports. She would spend the spring playing softball, fall on the volleyball court and winters were for basketball. If she had free time, it was spent honing her skills at all three.

As she got older, there was a time Mikkola wondered if sports were going to get in the way of her career. Her dream job is physical therapy and she wanted to dedicate more time to it. 

Softball wouldn’t let her go though.

Mikkola ultimately signed with Tennessee Wesleyan University and the match was perfect. She became an instant starter for the Bulldogs and the school is helping her prep for her career.

“I didn’t think I wanted to play (college) because I knew my education needed to come first and I was afraid softball would be too much of a job,” said Mikkola. “When I toured, coach (Toby) Brooks made it certain academics would come before ball always. We wouldn’t have to be getting up early and our workouts would be around our class schedule. Finding out the school was going to make it easy to do both gave me hope.”

Now shutdown from softball due to coronavirus concerns, Mikkola realizes she wasn’t - and still isn’t – ready to give up softball.

“I’m glad I kept playing. Just being down for this short time is killing me. It’s softball weather and I’m not playing softball,” said Mikkola.

In the short time she did play for the Bulldogs, she was already doing the same things that made her a star in Warren County. A two-time District 6AAA infielder of the year, Mikkola made a seamless transition from shortstop to third base, starting all 10 games on the hot corner. At the plate, Mikkola was steady as usual, hitting .385 with 12 RBIs.

Mikkola credits her coaches and teammates for her easy transition to the next level.

“It has been weird coming to a brand-new team and learning a new position. However, my coaches and teammates have been very helpful and understanding throughout the process,” said Mikkola, recalling a lip-sync challenge as an early bonding moment. “I was blessed to get a roommate like mine. We work so well together – it’s like we have known each other our whole lives. Between that and ball practice, the team spent a huge amount of time together and it allowed us to become pretty close in a short amount on time.”

The college game added some new rules and put on the field players who are all stars, but Mikkola still continues to apply things she learned at Warren County to help her succeed.

“I’ve learned throughout my life and through Warren County sports that you can be a great leader through your actions. In fact, I think, people tend to respect you more when you do,” said Mikkola. “Even though I’m a freshman, I lead through my actions and it makes the team believe in me and in themselves.”

For now, it’s a waiting game for Mikkola. She plans on continuing to play the sport that’s lasted with her since she was young, even as some of her other passions (Mikkola was all-district in basketball and volleyball as well) have been extinguished.

“It was always hard to pick the sport I loved the most. Each game has a different aspect and I loved getting a variety, but with softball I guess it was the sport I knew I could go somewhere,” said Mikkola. “I have literally played my whole life, longer than any other sport. Softball was my first love, just not my only.”

Hopefully, when softball weather arrives again next spring, Mikkola can return to her first love.