Senior Spotlight: Softball's Ilissa Hamilton, A complete student-athlete

Ilissa Hamilton winds up to deliver a pitch

by Eddie Kerekes, CWRU Sports Information

Despite pitcher and outfielder Ilissa Hamilton's many successes on the softball diamond, some of her favorite moments were the ones off the field.

"When we travel together, it's always a really fun time," she said. "We had a speaker with us, and we had a couple dance-offs on the bus that were really fun."

Though she might not be the best dancer on the team, the senior from Scranton, Pennsylvania finished her career as one of the top pitchers in program history. Hamilton leaves CWRU with the lowest career batting average allowed in program history (.235) the second-lowest career ERA (2.73), and the highest career K/9 (8.67). She also contributed as a hitter, finishing her career with a .271 batting average in over 200 at bats.

Her best season was her sophomore year and first in Cleveland when the right-handed pitcher set single-season program records for wins (21) and strikeouts (184) and led the Spartans to their first appearance in the College World Series. Hamilton was dominant in the 2018 playoffs, winning Most Outstanding Player in both the Notre Dame Regional and Holland, Michigan Super Regional. That season, she was a First Team All-University Athletic Association selection and followed up the campaign with an All-UAA Second Team selection in 2019.

With the Spartans in a win-or-go-home game in the Super Regional and just one win away from their first College World Series berth, Hamilton pitched a complete game against Hope College with just six hits and one walk allowed. She struck out the final batter of the game and started the celebration on the field with catcher Dusstyn Reynolds.

"That last inning where we knew [that] we pretty much had the deal sealed, having that moment of relief. [We thought,] 'Okay we did it. This is it, we're going,'" Hamilton said. "That was one of my favorite moments."

In addition to her success on the field, Hamilton also succeeds in the classroom. She appeared on the Google Cloud Academic All-America First Team in 2019 and earned UAA All-Academic honors that season. A biomedical engineering student, Hamilton accepted a product development position with Stryker Orthopaedics in Mahwah, New Jersey and will be starting a rotational program in July.

"There's overall so many benefits from being a student-athlete," she said. "The one thing that I'll always be proud of [is] making it through my four years, doing my academics and my athletics at the same time without compromising my performance at either one."

Though the Class of 2020 may be most remembered for its role in leading the team to the College World Series and the subsequent 25-win season in 2019, Hamilton knows its impact extends beyond the winning. This season, she said the team was "more focused on the culture we were leaving behind." 

"Instead of focusing on all these wins and losses and getting down on ourselves, we really tried to make it so that every person on that team knew that they were important [and] they were valued," she added. "We really hammered in that we are one team, we are one culture. And I think that really paid off in the end."

In addition to reflecting on the senior class's impact, Hamilton reflected on her last four years. Despite an abrupt end to her senior season, she expressed fulfillment with her experience. 

"Overall, I'm going to be happy when I look back on how my career ended as a student-athlete."

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