Minden man torn for opening round of NCAAs
All through his granddaughters’ high school careers, Ron Wilcks had to spend at least three games every softball season at a loss as to who he should cheer for.
The older granddaughter, Brianne McGowan – considered by many to be the best high school softball player to ever come out of the Northern 4A, would lead her Wooster Colts against the Douglas Tigers, who boasted the younger granddaughter, Kaycee Wilcks, leaving Ron Wilcks to root for both teams.
“It was really difficult,” Ron Wilcks, a longtime Minden resident, said. “My wife and I went through that so many times in high school where you just didn’t know what to do. We’d get so nervous, no matter who was at bat or who was in the field.”
As best as he knew, however, that was all supposed to end when McGowan graduated in 2003.
McGowan signed on to play for Pac 10 powerhouse Oregon State after leading Wooster to four consecutive state titles. While at Wooster, she broke state records in career wins (94), wins in a season (32), career shutouts (73), shutouts in a season (25), career no-hitters (24), no-hitters in a season (8), career perfect games (13), perfect games in a season (4), career strikeouts (1,318) and strikeouts in a season (372).
Kaycee Wilcks, on the other hand, turned in a dominant senior season in 2004, leading the Tigers to the Northern 4A Regional title and state runner-up finish as one of the most fearsome leadoff hitters in the state. She decided to play her college ball for the University of Nevada’s fledgling program still in its first two years back.
One might have thought the two wouldn’t find their way into opposing dugouts again. At least not in a playoff situation. Right?
The Wolf Pack entered last week’s Western Athletic Conference tournament as a longshot to win the title and clinch the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA Regional tournament.
As it was, however, Nevada came out of nowhere to upset Fresno State and top Hawaii in the finals to clinch the automatic bid Sunday. Within hours, the Wolf Pack learned who their first-round opponent in their first NCAA tournament appearance would be.
Seventh-seeded Oregon State.
“I couldn’t even breathe when that all came about,” Ron Wilcks said. “It was just phenomenal. It honestly took me a while just to realize how big it was, how rare this is to have two granddaughters on opposing sides in the NCAA Regionals.
“I couldn’t believe it. The chances of that happening are amazing.”
Wilcks spent the better part of the softball season splitting his time between the two teams.
“We put a lot of miles on, tried as best we could to get to as many of Brianne’s games as possible” he said. “We flew up when they took on Arizona, and of course when they came down to play Cal or Stanford, we made our way over.
“Then whenever the Wolf Pack was at home, we’d make our way up to see Kaycee play.”
Wilcks’ son, Todd, had a custom hat made up which combined the Oregon State “O” with the Nevada “N”. On one side it reads “Brianne #15” and “Kaycee #8” on the other.
It’s not at all unlike the hat that Todd had made up for him when the girls were in high school with the Wooster logo on one side and the Tiger logo on the other.
“I try to be equally supportive to both girls,” Ron Wilcks said. “I am so proud of them both.”
McGowan is having a stellar junior season, batting .302 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs for the Beavers. She has compiled a 24-6 record in the circle with three saves and 201 strikeouts in 210 innings pitched. She boasts an ERA of 1.33 through 42 starts.
Wilcks has been used more sparingly in her sophomore year, mostly as a pinch runner or designated hitter.
She’s scored 11 runs and has one double and three RBIs to go with two stolen bases in as many attempts. Her batting average of .357 leads the team.
As far as the Wolf Pack’s dramatic run at the WAC title, Ron Wilcks said it was just a matter of playing good ball when it counted.
“They just really came together in the last week,” Wilcks said of the Pack, which won 14 of its last 17 games. “They started to gel as a team and that’s what you hope for at this time of year.”
The softball game isn’t the only big event for the Wilcks family this weekend.
Todd and Ron will fly up for the game early Friday morning. The first pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. in Corvallis, Ore., and the two will then wing it back to Reno by Saturday morning for the University of Nevada graduation ceremonies where Todd’s son Matt will be graduating.
“We’ll be hustling back here to see Matt’s day,” Ron Wilcks said. “It’s going to be a big weekend for our family.”
— Joey Crandall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.