GIBSON CITY -- Softball is a year-round sport, according to Brea Walker.
Summertime is usually one in which the 2016 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley graduate is able to take a break from her time as a softball player at Bloomington-based Illinois Wesleyan University.
This summer, the IWU senior-to-be accounting major will be working in Chicago as an intern at the RSM accounting firm.
"It's pretty cool to have that connection from Wesleyan to be able to get me that internship and give me the tools I need to succeed there, hopefully," Walker said. "I enjoy being at Wesleyan for the softball aspect. My education there been phenomenal so far. I'm very lucky, and I have enjoyed every single person I've met and will continue to meet there."
Past summers have provided an opportunity to play for the Bloomington Lady Hearts minor league softball team, including a tournament in New York City a couple of years ago.
After Labor Day, IWU has had a fall softball season with a month and a half of practices and a couple of games at the end of the fall season. Last fall included a game at the University of Illinois
"I don't know who we're playing this year, but I'm sure it'll be a good competition. Right after the fall season, right to workouts and training for the spring season," Walker said. "It never really ends."
The endless schedule has produced results for both Walker and the IWU softball team.
Walker was selected as a Division-III All-Region first-teamer as a pitcher.
"That was pretty cool," Walker said.
Walker was also named to the all-College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin second team for the third year in a row this past spring.
She is tied for fifth all-time in IWU history for most career appearances (84), sixth all-time for pitching wins (45), most games started (60) and most innings pitched (420.2), seventh for most shutouts (10), tied for seventh in most saves (3) and eighth for lowest earned-run average (1.81).
Walker is also tied for most appearances in a single season (32 in 2017), ranked seventh in post innings pitched in a single season (159.0 in 2017), tied for ninth in most shutouts in a season (four in both 2018 and 2019) and 10th for most games started (23 in 2019).
"It's pretty cool to hear that hard work has paid off. Keeping a calm composure on the mound and being able to put in practice with my teammates has been beneficial to me," Walker said. "That goes to prove that hard work pays off. Softball is a year-round sport, so it's pretty cool to see the results at the end."
The Titans had been nationally-ranked in the top seven all of last spring and has been ranked in the top 25 in the previous two years. Walker is part of the most successful team in IWU history as the Titans reached the NCAA Division III Super Regional round in each of the past three seasons.
In 2018, IWU faced top-ranked Virginia Wesleyan in the best-of-three national championship series. After IWU lost game one Walker struck out four batters and walked two while allowing four earned runs on nine hits in game two as the Titans prevailed 5-4.
The Titans finished as the Division III national runner-up after a 3-1 loss in game three. Walker was named to the all-tournament team.
"It was very fun," Walker said.
Walker scattered six hits and fanned three in 4 2/3 innings in IWU's 8-0 win over Calvin in its NCAA Division III regional final game on May 11.
After reaching the final round of the NCAA Division III Softball Championships with a pair of Super Regional elimination-game victories against Carthage at IWU Softball Field on Saturday, May 18, the Titans ended their season with a 1-0 loss to Eastern Connecticut State.
With the loss, IWU ended its season with a 39-10 mark.
"Just making it to the championship series is a fun time spending more time with our teammates and not really wanting to let go of the team that we had for that year because there's always seniors that are graduating," Walker said. "I'll be one next year, which is really kind of scary. I didn't realize that my career only has one year left to it. It came quick."
Among Walker's teammates were Jill Runyon, a graduate of Tremotn, Shelby Fulk from El Paso-Gridley and Ally Wiegand of Tri-Valley -- all schools that, like GCMS, are in the Heart of Illinois Conference.
"It's pretty cool to have people from the HOIC being on the same team as I am," Walker said. "Playing them in high school, you see a different view of them, and then you start playing with them as teammates, and you have a big asset with every single one of those girls," Walker said. "It's just cool to see some familiar faces and play with them and succeed with them."
Walker said she has received a lot of support from former GCMS colleagues who, if they cannot make it to games, follow IWU on social media.
"I know that a lot of people follow us on Facebook or other social media," Walker said. They seem to support us. It's really cool to see that. That was just really cool to see hometown support and hometown pride coming from people from the area supporting me even after graduating three years (ago)."
Walker is not the only GCMS softball player to go on to play at the college level. Regan Romshek, a 2012 GCMS graduate, played for Division I-school Illinois State from 2013-16.
"It was cool growing up to see Regan Romshek going to Division I because it showed that you can come from a small town and still go to a big school and be successful where you're at and be happy where you're at. That showed me that I can get the exposure that I wanted," Walker said. "I ended up at Division III just because I wanted to focus on getting a good education while also playing the sport that I love. Wesleyan just felt like home to me when I visited. That's why I committed there."
Madi Eberle, who will enter her senior year at GCMS this upcoming fall, announced via Twitter on Oct. 8, 2018, that she verbally committed to Southern Illinois.
"I just think it's really cool that we've had three consecutive pitchers go to college and play softball and be successful in their career," Walker said. "It's also cool to see a younger pitcher going to Southern Illinois because that just shows that we still have talent in the area and that Gibson City has talented softball players, and just athletes in general. It kind of just gives a name for our town. It's pretty cool to see that."