Delainey Bryant nails a 3-pointer against CHS last winter.

One of the fastest players on the fields, Delainey Bryant made another quick decision. 

As always, it was safe. 

The reliable contact hitter announced that she will continue her softball career with Illinois State University. Bryant marks the second Mattoon graduate to play for ISU in the last decade, following 2015 grad Riley Phipps who played two seasons with the Division I softball program. 

“It feels great and it’s an amazing feeling knowing that I accomplished my dreams of becoming a D1 athlete,” said Bryant. “It’s been a dream ever since I was very young. I worked very hard to get where I am, so it feels really good.”

Bryant is among five new players for ISU coach Melinda Fischer.

“”Delainey excels in all aspects of the game,” Fischer stated on the ISU softball page. “Her ability to play multiple positions and hit anywhere in the lineup makes her a tremendous asset at this level. She has a great work ethic and her competitive spirit is very contagious.”

Bryant cited that her time playing with the Premier Fastpitch summer travel team was a huge factor in her ability to gain exposure with ISU.  

“I have been playing on a travel softball team since I was eight years old,” said Bryant. “I joined Premier Fastpitch when I was 12 with the goal to play in college. They are a very elite organization that gets their players to the next level. We play the best competition in the best tournaments to get exposure to as many college coaches as possible. Playing on that team brought me all the opportunities to get the exposure to all the college coaches.”

Bryant is a two-time All-Area and First-Team All-Apollo Conference selection. As a sophomore, Bryant led the Lady Wave with a batting average of .404 with 38 hits. Mattoon softball coach Hannah Dow said one of Bryant’s most impressive stats might be her 5.182 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale. 

She is also a four-year player for the basketball team, helping the Green Wave win the Apollo Conference and IHSA regional titles.

“It’s a great opportunity for her to be able to play at the highest level and for an outstanding program,” said Dow. “She has a very strong work ethic on the field and is an excellent student in the classroom. She has the ability to play multiple positions, which allow her to showcase her talents in various ways at Illinois State.”

Bryant plans to major in elementary education with the hopes of becoming a teacher.

“I chose ISU because it was the school that fits me best,” said Bryant. “When I went on a visit there, it immediately felt like home. It is also a very good school for what I want to major in. They have a great softball program, and I got along really well with the coaches there right from the start. I had multiple other offers and schools that were interesting, but ISU just felt like home.”

Bryant will join an ISU program that is rebuilding. In 2019, the Redbirds finished 18-33 overall with an 11-10 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference, which was sixth-best in the conference. 

Before COVID-19 shut down the softball season, ISU had been 12-11 with close losses to No. 4 LSU, No. 7 Florida,  No. 17 Michigan, and No. 22 Arizona State. 

“I will make ISU better by bringing my versatility to the program,” said Bryant. “I can play multiple positions on the field. I will also bring my speed on the bases. I can bat in the lineup wherever they need me. I have a good work ethic, a positive attitude, and I am very coachable. I will also bring my competitive spirit. I am just so excited to see what college will bring.”

In a full season, ISU hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2017. Dow believes that Bryant can bring the winning ways back to the program. 

“Delainey is an all-around great kid,” said Dow. “She has a championship mentality and works hard to get better every single day. We are very proud of her and look forward to following her at ISU. She will represent Mattoon very well.”

Bryant’s official signing will take place in the near future, where she will have plenty of people to thank once it’s over. 

“I would like to thank my parents and family,” said Bryant. “They have been my rock through this whole process. They have always supported me no matter what. There is no way I could have gotten to the place where I am today without them. I would also like to thank my travel softball coaches Dan and Kristi Paulson, Brandon Crozier, and many others along the way. They have always pushed me to be the best athlete and person that I can be. They have supported me through the whole process, and I couldn’t have done it without them. Also, my high school softball coach for always believing in me and supporting me through the process as well.”