Up until this past season, it had been a bumpy road on the college diamond for Framingham State University softball player Megan Downing.
The Hanson native played her entire freshman season with a torn ACL suffered while participating in basketball for the school. A week before her sophomore campaign she was cleared to play, but was not 100 percent quite yet. 2016-17 was a different story.
The junior shortstop set bests in runs (16), hits (36), doubles (nine), runs batted in (23) and stolen bases (two).
“I was finally somewhat healthy,” the criminology major said. “This year I finallyhad the opportunity to focus on softball and not treating an injury. I worked really hard and it paid off.”
Rams head coach Larry Miller said he’s been impressed with Downing’s ability to battle through what it takes to make her team successful.
“Meg is a gamer,” Miller said. “When push comes to shove, whether she is hurt, injured or whatever, she’s going to make a play to get a hit or get it done.”In Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) play, Downing was a standout. Her average spiked a near 100 points as she played an integral part in helping the Rams land the MASCAC title. FSU also tallied a school record 31 wins and won its first NCAA Division III Tournament game ever (4-2 over Lesley).
“We made history,” Downing said. “All of our hard work paid off and it was something I will never forget. This team was special.”
Injuries may have derailed Downing, who started playing softball at the age of five, on the field, but her voice has never been lost in the dugout. At the outset of 2016-17, she was honored as a captain, a position she will hold into her senior season.
“It was a great feeling to be named captain as a junior,” Downing said. “What meant the most to me is my teammates voted for me.”
Downing, who wears her socks scrunched down at her ankles as part of one of her pregame rituals, said she believes her passion for the game is one of her biggest advantages.
“I strive to get better,” Downing said. “I am very competitive and I can take criticism. When my coach tells me to work on something, I work hard to fix it.” On the field, she said her knowledge of shortstop plays into her hands more than most. Downing was in on eight double plays and posted a .936 fielding percentage this past season.
“I played a lot of games there for a long time,” Downing said. “Being able to adjust to the hitter and different field types [has allowed me] to help my team.”
Miller said Downing is a true asset to the FSU softball program as a whole.
“Meg is an all around solid player and even better person,” Miller said. “We are lucky to have her. On the field, she just gets it done. It’s not always conventional, but she gets it done.”
Downing’s unconventional style of play shinned through in an early season battle against Roger Williams when she went from first to home on a double with two outs. The ball beat her to the plate by at least ten feet, so instead of sliding into an out, Downing leaped around the catcher and was safe.
As the Whitman-Hanson product, who sports the No. 5 after childhood icon Nomar Garciaparra, heads into the offseason she said she has one goal.
“I need to stay healthy,” Downing said. “I have a lot of injuries so [I need to help] my body recover and get stronger and faster.”