Being a student-athlete entering their freshman year can be tough for a lot of kids playing collegiate sports.
Of all the lists of challenges they face in their first year, whether it is trying to find a spot in a rotation or trying to fit in and gel with a team that consists of upperclassmen, peers can make it nervous for some.
Leslie Sims is not one of them. She has check-marked every task handed to her during her freshman season.
One of the most decorated softball players to ever come through Hauser, the 2016 graduate and former All-State shortstop, who was one of the key pieces to the Jets winning a Class A state championship in 2015, has taken Indiana State by storm.
To the coaching staff, the impact that Sims made in her first few practices with the Sycamores was hard to go unnoticed.
The holder of six IHSAA records during her career at Hauser, she instantly found herself as a mainstay in the lineup on a regular basis. She played in 52 of ISU’s 53 games, starting 42.
During a large portion of the season, Sims was batting near .400, but finished with a .368 average, which was first on the team and seventh in the Missouri Valley Conference. She totaled 50 hits that included six doubles and an inside-the-park grand slam during a Feb. 25 game against Wright State.
Sims’ biggest attribute is her speed. She stole a state-record 240 bases in her career at Hauser and finished second in the MVC with 20 stolen bases this year, behind only the 41 of Bradley’s Kelly Kapp, and led ISU with 32 runs scored.
It was almost a no-brainer at that point to the MVC committee that Sims would be named second-team All-MVC.
Sims was first to say that the credit for her success is due to the people she has been surrounded with and playing travel softball competitively during the summer while growing up.
“Some of my closest friends not from around here have been on my travel teams,” Sims said. “It has opened me up to a whole bunch of different people and a different aspect of my life all throughout the years.”
Sims has had to make a huge transition of playing a full high school schedule to a full college schedule. Colleges play two to three times more games than Indiana high school teams.
Sims said that maintaining a balance to her schedule has been the most challenging.
“We’re practicing at least three times a day,” Sims said. “It is a lot of time management with your classes throughout the day. Your season is like three high school seasons. You start playing as soon as you get to school in August until whenever you’re finished in May. So it has been non-stop.”
Non-stop it has been for Sims. She still manages to get in some softball during the offseason. Sims and several other Division I players in the Midwest formed a team called “Slammers” and drove to Chicago to play against the Chicago Bandits of National Pro Fastpitch.
Sims managed two hits in one of the games and also got a taste of playing right field while also playing second. She said she’ll play on weekends whenever her already busy schedule can allow.
Sims said one of the biggest influences of her softball career is the help of her father and Hauser coach, Craig Sims. Leslie got involved with softball at the age of 5, and her father has been there for support every step of the way.
The elder Sims even built a pole barn for Leslie to practice her softball skills growing up. Needless to say, it has paid off.
Leslie says that her father has been a big inspiration and a role model in her life on and off the softball field.
“Ever since I was little, my dad has taught me work ethic and if I want something that I have to work there to get it,” said Leslie. “He has taught me everything that I need to know about softball, and so I carried it over into college.
“At the very beginning all the way to now, even my mom (Shannon) and my sister (Tessa) honestly have been very supportive. I’ve have a lot of support from the town itself and years of friends I’ve had here. Our middle school team and our high school team came and watched me play, which was awesome.”
The Sycamores finished 24-29 this year, with an 8-18 conference record. ISU will be under a new coaching regime next season after former coach Shane Bouman was fired early in the season. Tori Magner served as interim coach for the rest of the season.
Most of Leslie’s starts during the season have been primarily at second base and not at her usual shortstop position. With the normal starter at shortstop having graduated, she says it will be up to the new coaching staff to decide if she will move to shortstop or stay at second heading into next season.
For Leslie, that might feel like starting over again, but there is optimism for the next two years with recruiting classes coming in. Tessa Sims is one of those recruits that will join in 2018.
With their impact still to be felt for the next three years, they hope the future of the Sycamores is nothing but bright.
Name: Leslie Sims
High School: Hauser
College: Indiana State
Year: Just completed freshman season
Position: Second base, shortstop
Key stats: Led Sycamores with a .368 average, 20 stolen bases and 32 runs scored