By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

Paige Bouska went to Seattle University just wanting to get better at softball, season after season.

But the 2013 McNary graduate is leaving the program with more career hits than anyone who has ever played for the Redhawks.

“It wasn’t really ever about setting records,” Bouska said. “I had a goal every year to do better than the year before. For me, it’s really cool that I set it but I wasn’t really trying to, at all.”

Bouska said she didn’t think about the record until the start of her senior season once she realized she only needed 48 hits to break it. She made sure the historic hit, the 209th of her career, was one she wouldn’t forget.

With Seattle trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Bouska lashed a triple to left field to drive in two runs. The Redhawks went on to defeat Santa Clara 5-3 on March 26.

“Before the game I knew I only had two hits to break the record, one to tie it and then two to break it,” Bouska said.

“That at bat in general I wasn’t thinking about it at all. I just knew that we had people on base and we were behind so I needed to find a way to score them or at least find a way to get on so I was just more focused on that. It was super cool and exciting, just because I scored the run to put us ahead and I also beat the record and I hit a triple so there was just so much excitement in that moment.”

Hitting a triple wasn’t uncommon for Bouska, who also has the single season (7) and career (14) records for triples at Seattle.

During her senior season, Bouska also broke the single season hits record with 74 and led the team with 37 runs scored. From March 11 to March 31, Bouska went on a 13-game hitting streak. She also led the  Redhawks with 23 multi-hit outings, including seven games with three hits. She reached base in 24 straight contests, including every game played in March.

Bouska said the key to her success was small victories.

“Every game I had a goal to just get on base,” she said. “I would rarely ever get shutout in a game from getting on base so just having that little goal for every game helped me to be better.

“My job as a slapper is to just get on base so that power hitters can hit me in. If I’m doing my job other people can do their job to hit me in.”

Bouska was also named to the All-Western Athletic Conference First Team and voted MVP at Seattle’s team banquet.

“That was amazing because it was my team that voted me for that (MVP),” Bouska said. “For them to think of me like that was really cool. It was a nice feeling that my teammates think I’m valuable in that way.”

Along with her individual success, Bouska also helped the Redhawks reach new heights as a team as Seattle played in the WAC Championship game for the first time in school history.

Bouska drove in the tying run as the Redhawks upset top-seeded New Mexico State to reach the finals.

“Just being in tournament play is so exciting because the adrenaline is so high and everyone wants to do so good,” Bouska said. “Everyone’s behind each other’s back so much and cheering each other on. Everyone is so loud and pumped up all of the time. It’s an amazing atmosphere to be in. I’ll miss that for sure.”

However, the Aggies came back through the loser’s bracket to beat Seattle twice to win the championship.

Regardless, Bouska, who finished with 235 career hits, left the program stronger than she found it.

“The team has definitely improved so much in my four years,” Bouska said. “We’ve grown so much. Coach (Geoff) Hirai has really made the program incredible and I’m excited to see where they go now.

“Coming in, my class, that was something that we talked about. We wanted to not only leave softball better but the culture of the team and how we treat each other. We wanted everyone to be more like a family and like each other more. Everyone treats each other better and that helps on the field, too. I’m glad the softball is obviously better but the team culture is also way better.”

Bouska graduated from Seattle University on Sunday, June 11 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She is back in Keizer to figure out her next move. Her dream job is to work for the FBI.