COLUMBIA — The second baseman wanted the ball. Michaele Vock could see it on her face.
“I was playing shortstop and there was this ball that was hit in between me and the leftfielder, and I went and I jumped up backwards and caught it,” she explained.
Then, while still hanging in the air, she caught a glimpse of the girl standing on second base, something in her eyes begging for the ball. Somehow, Michaele Vock removed the ball from her glove and and got it to second for an inning-ending double play before crashing back down to earth.
Even years after it occurred, the MU infielder counts the play as one of her greatest softball memories.
“I remember her, after it happened, her eyes got so big and she said, ‘I just knew that you wanted the ball,’” said Michaele Vock’s sister Abby Vock, the second baseman that day and her current Missouri Tiger teammate.
Abby Vock, the youngest of three Vock siblings, joined the MU softball team this season, just a year after Michaele Vock made the move from their small hometown of Morrison, Ill.
As they sit across from each other, discussing the play they each remember fondly, an animated Michaele Vock temporarily allows her elbows to rest on her knees in the moments when her hands are not required to help her tell the story. Meanwhile, Abby Vock sits up straight in her chair, her legs neatly crossed. She comments quietly on the play only after being asked and is seems happy to let her sister do most of the talking.
“I am very happy to come back and play with Michaele. High School ball was fun. We had a lot of fun, but it wasn’t as competitive as I’m used to,” explained Abby Vock. “Just like knowing what the other person’s going to do all the time, you feel like you have that kind of mental connection. With other people, it’s not the same because you haven’t been with them as long.”
In other words, the play was a result of more than just skill, it was also the result of sisterhood.
“They’re inseparable, those two,” MU softball coach Ehren Earleywine said. “They live together, they travel together, they hang out together, they field together, I mean they do everything together.”
Softball has been something the pair has done together since Abby Vock begrudgingly drew her older sister away from a boys’ baseball team when she was eight years old.
“My mom made me try softball for a year, because I didn’t want to. She’s like, ‘Well, just because your sister’s doing it,’ so I was like ‘All right I’ll try it,’” said the sophomore Michaele Vock. “I really didn’t like it, and I wanted to go back to baseball after a year, and my mom told me I couldn’t because she thought I would have friend issues because all my best friends were guys. So she made me stay in softball, and I learned to love that.”
The two continued to play softball, almost always on the same teams, until Michaele Vock left for MU last year. The year apart was difficult for both sisters.
“It was really hard. I don’t even know how to explain it. You just get homesick,” Michaele Vock said of being nearly six hours from home without a car.
The lone child left in a home that had recently housed three busy teenagers, Abby Vock had a different problem.
“My parents paid a lot of attention to me, a lot. They were always wondering what I was doing,” she said.
Soon, though, Abby Vock made the move into an MU residential hall with her sister, eager to play softball with her sibling again.
“I thought about that and that did become a factor in why I came here. One factor, not the entire thing,” Abby Vock said of her decision to attend MU. “Obviously, I have my own decisions. I thought it’d be neat and be a great experience, and she’d help me through it.”
Now, just 45 games into her college career, Abby Vock has established herself as the Tigers’ starting shortstop.
“I knew that she was ready defensively,” Earleywine said. “There was never a question about that. I always knew she could play shortstop for us defensively. The big question mark was whether or not she was going to be able to hit.”
That question still stands. Abby Vock has is batting .222 this season with 14 RBI, but her defense has kept her in Earleywine’s lineup.
“She does a good job of communicating, even though she’s a freshman, but in all honestly she knows that’s an area that she has to make some strides in as well,” he said. “She’s just by nature kind of a quiet, shy kid and so what we’re trying to make her realize is off the field that’s fine but between the lines we need our middle infield to be those who communicate and kind of lead traffic.”
Abby Vock admits she has a tendency to keep quiet, a contrast from her sister.
“Michaele has a little bit different personality,” she said. “She’s more outgoing than I am. I’m more quiet. When I have to speak up and say something, I will. But usually I just keep it all inside me until one moment I have to just let it all out,” she said. “That’s me, but Michaele will just straight-up tell me (anything).”
Michaele Vock, who has appeared mostly as a pinch runner this season, said she and Abby Vock encourage each other.
“I try to give her her support, and she also keeps me going,” she said.
In a recent game, Michaele Vock provided that support by way of some savvy advice. She noticed that Abby Vock wasn’t taking advantage of the inside pitches she was being thrown. She told her sister to look inside. Abby did and got a hit.
“I’m not saying I did that,” Michaele Vock said, “I try to pay attention to her and figure out how I can help her.”
That kind of dedication sounds right for person Abby Vock calls her best friend.
“I was always close with her before,” said Michaele Vock, “but I think that it kind of made it a little stronger since we came here though.”