Redefining Ally Wiegand, One Softball Player's Search For Her Identity


By Jon Gold

On the day her Division I softball career ended, Ally Wiegand woke up at 6 AM. and started packing. It was a Wednesday, she recalls, after a particularly bad Tuesday, when her hand hurt, and worse, her soul.

She met with her South Dakota coaches around noon and told them of the decision: She was leaving school. It was final. There was no turning back.

At that moment, she says, “I realized I was saying goodbye to my career.” 

She was devastated, a shell of her former self. She was damaged on the inside and on the outside. A batted ball had struck her in the hand earlier in the season, limiting her abilities and her confidence, leading to a 5-7 start to her career and a ballooned ERA.

So Wiegand packed up her car and drove home. Her father met her halfway and followed her the rest of the way back. When she arrived, she threw her bag in the garbage. For a month, at least, she didn’t even mention the word softball.

“At that point, I really thought that the sport had brought me nothing but terrible things,” she said. 

She was ready to move on, not just from South Dakota, not just from her Coyotes teammates, but from softball entirely. She planned to check out Illinois State or Illinois-Wesleyan, but as a regular student. Not only would softball no longer be her identity, but it would also be a non-entity.

But Ally Wiegand could not escape her past. Her riseball is too good.

Returning To The Field 

Quickly, word circulated around town. 

Ally’s back. Ally’s back. Coaches heard and reached out. She can’t guess now how many emails she deleted. One stuck with her, from Denise Prater, her former travel coach, and an assistant coach for Division-III Illinois-Wesleyan.

“They said everything I needed to hear,” Wiegand said. “That I’m a human first and a student second and then a softball player, that they were going to do everything they can to be happy and healthy, and it all sounded great. But I was skeptical.”

Skeptical, but with her interest piqued. Softball, it seemed, had burrowed itself into her soul.

But she needed to see the Titans in action, to get a feel for who they were, how they played, and, well, if they smiled and enjoyed playing. Happy teammates are good teammates, it seems.

Wiegand began showing up to I-W games incognito, wearing a bulky sweatshirt and a hat, standing near the outfield fence or high up in the bleachers, away from anyone. She didn’t want to be seen or to feel pressured. Pretty soon, there were rumors. Who is that girl in the stands, and why is she always around? 

“People would walk by and say, ‘Hi Ally, how you doing?’” she said. “The gig was up.”

“I saw her every time,” Illinois-Wesleyan head coach Tiffany Prager says now. “She was not great at hiding.”

Prager, of course, was interested. She saw Wiegand pitch for the first time as a high school freshman and knew she was in store for big things. Throughout Wiegand’s career at Tri-Valley High, Prager kept tabs. Tri-Valley is less than a dozen miles away from I-W, after all.

When Wiegand moved home, Prager heard in a hurry.

“I had people reaching out to me within the community almost immediately, keeping me posted," Prager said. "I wanted her to be comfortable making her decision. Not only to play but to play at I-W."

For a while, Wiegand wasn’t completely sold. 

The first time around the recruiting merry-go-round, Wiegand acted hastily. She verbally committed to South Dakota two days after her 16th birthday, and being “naïve about NCAA rules,” she didn’t realize how many coaches would continue to contact her. Feeling unsure about the whole process, at the time she was confident in her decision and wanted to stay loyal. Even a coaching change in 2017 did not dissuade her from her original choice.

But, Wiegand says now, “I wish I had more time to figure myself out.”

When everything went south, she knew it would take a special coach to rekindle the love of the game. She found that in Prager. 

“I kept stalking them, and I followed them to the conference championship,” she said.

Soon enough, the softball bug bit her again.

She was back, and the Titans were better for it.

How much better? How about this: Last season’s D-III runner-up after losing in the NCAA championship game to top-ranked Virginia-Wesleyan, the Titans went 19-5 last year with Wiegand in the circle. She tossed 16 complete games, struck out a school-record 229 batters and finished with a 1.15 ERA and a second-team NFCA All-American nod.

Not bad for someone who gave up softball.

The Healing Team

Looking back, Wiegand has regrets.

When she absconded from South Dakota like a thief in a stolen car, she couldn’t even face her teammates and left without saying goodbye, or providing an explanation. It was not her finest moment, she said.

“I was not where I need to be, but that’s hard for people to hear,” she said. “Sometimes you have to do that. People don’t understand it. It is such a hard decision, and I had so much backlash. I mean, I had a full ride at South Dakota, and I was told I was wasting my talent. That I was stupid.”

But you have to live in her shoes.

She’d first picked up a softball at the age of four. At eight, she was throwing bullets, so hard that batters were coming to the plate in shin guards. She skipped 13U and was a 12-year-old on the 14U team. In eighth grade, she got a personal pitching coach and started training to be a DI athlete. She says her family “wasn’t that psycho family with softball,” but even despite a relatively healthy perspective, “softball was definitely my identity.”

And in a graduating class of 68 students at Tri-Valley, where, she said, “I was either Austin’s little sister or Ally The Softball Player,” she stood out. Softball is where she derived her worth, and her joy, or what she knew of it. She missed a homecoming for softball, traveled almost every weekend for the sport, ripped up her knee playing it.

Softball wasn’t just her sport. It wasn’t just her thing. It was her.

“Softball was my entire life in high school,” Wiegand said. “But I found I have more passions than softball. There are things I wanted to explore.”

This is a girl who lists, “Hippie at heart,” on her Twitter profile.

That, Prager said, is not a bad thing.

“We have goofy moments that pull out the hippie in Ally,” Prager said of her team.

Added Wiegand: “Our team thrives on being goofy and our authentic selves.”

That, Wiegand said, is what helped pull her out of her shell, and more so, out of the muck.

“My mental health was deteriorating,” she said. “I was looking at softball as a job, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. Every player will tell you they play because a little girl picked up a ball 15 years ago.”

That little girl, Wiegand found, was gone.

Now she’s back.

She loves her teammates, coaches, her studies and her classmates, and, inch-by-inch, she’s beginning to love herself.

“The coaches told me, you came to us very broken, and it took me all fall and at least a couple weeks into last year to feel comfortable,” she said. “I feel like I was put on this team to heal.”

What To Watch For At 2019 PGF 18U Premier Nationals


It's hard to fly under the radar at the PGF 18U Premier Nationals after winning one of the top tournaments in the nation over the Fourth of July weekend.

PA Chaos Gold Capture 2019 TC/USA National Championship


Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

PA Chaos Gold centerfielder Tayler Vitola led off the championship game of the 18U TC/USA Nationals with a ground out to third base, but like her team, she ended the tournament on a high note.

Day Three: TC/USA Nationals Recap With PA Chaos, Bombers & More


Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

Middle infielder Aminah Vega is young enough to play in the 14U TC/USA National tournament, but this week, she’s starring for Gainesville Gold McFadyen in the 18U bracket.

Rising Star: Why Sierra Kersten Leads With A Legacy Of Love

It’s no secret that talent, hard work, confidence, and great coaching are essential ingredients to the success of an athlete. A pinch of perseverance doesn’t hurt, either.

Practice With The Pros -- More Than Just Softball

This Is Sahvanna Jaquish

Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

For the fourth consecutive year, PFX Athletics will be hosting Practice with the Pros, a softball camp where players actually practice in a 1:1 setting with professional softball players. The three-day camp takes place at the National Training Center in Clermont, Florida (Legends Way Ballfields) over winter break. The dates for this year are December 27-29, 2019.

Day Two: TC/USA Nationals Recap With Intruders, Mustangs, & Gainesville


Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

The best laid plans often go awry in softball, but the players who adjust on the fly are usually the most successful.

Vann Stuedeman Will Not Return As Mississippi State Softball Head Coach

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State Director of Athletics John Cohen announced Tuesday that Vann Stuedeman will not return as head coach of the Bulldog softball program.  

Clemson Softball Announces Addition Of Five Transfers


CLEMSON, S.C. – Clemson University head softball coach John Rittman announced the addition of five transfers to the program Tuesday. The signees include Mary Kathryn “MK” Bonamy, Camden “Cammy” Pereira, Marissa Guimbarda and Bailey Taylor. All four are set to join Ansley Gilstrap, Clemson’s first transfer who joined the program officially last summer. Rittman also now expects the Tigers’ squad to be near, if not, fully rounded out heading into the fall with a total of 16 players on the official roster.

Day One: TC/USA Nationals Recap


Unlock this video, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

It was Audrey LeClair’s dream to commit to Michigan. LeClair turned her first game of the 18U TC/USA Nationals into a dream too.

USA JO Cup: How To Watch, Time & Live Stream Info


Since the inaugural year in 2015, the JO Cup has grown to include three age groups and has crowned eight champions in its four years. This tournament is team-based and is led by a committee of travel ball coaches whose main focus is to give teams the opportunity to play in an elite tournament and rely on their feedback to produce a competitive atmosphere for all those involved.