May 29—Zoe Hicks stepped into the left-handed batter’s box Friday night at Kraft Field having already made history this week.
Hicks became the first woman to play in the Expedition League — a college wood-bat summer baseball league — when the Wheat City Whiskey Jacks played a series in Minot against the Souris Valley Sabre Dogs.
Back in their temporary home Friday night — the Whiskey Jacks usually play in Brandon, Man., but will set up shop in Grand Forks this summer due to the border closing — Hicks achieved a lot more.
The Louisiana Tech softball player from Manitoba became the first female to reach base and score a run during the fourth inning, then became the first to get a hit and drive in a run in the seventh as she helped the Whiskey Jacks rout the Sioux Falls Sunfish 13-4.
The highlight was the two-out, bases-loaded single up the middle to drive in a pair of runs and put the game out of reach in the bottom of the seventh.
The roughly 200 fans in Kraft Field roared as the bases cleared and Hicks pumped her fist as she reached first base.
“It just feels good,” Hicks said. “I’ve been close. The last game we played against the Sabre Dogs, I was close. I made contact three of the four times and I just missed it my third at bat. So, I was feeling it. I was itching to get a hit. The first one is always the hardest to get, so it’s good to get one under my belt and move forward from there.”
The fact that the bases were full for her first hit added to it.
“That’s just a bonus,” she said.
Hicks is used to transitioning between softball and baseball.
She plays college softball at Louisiana Tech, then usually heads to play baseball for Team Manitoba in the summer. Team Manitoba had events planned for this summer, but they’ve been wiped out due to the coronavirus pandemic.
So, Hicks contacted the Whiskey Jacks to see if she could play for them this summer.
“We did a lot of research on her,” Wheat City manager Robbie Laughlin said. “We called people in Brandon who worked baseball stuff with her and they all had really good things to say about her.”
Hicks first had batting practice with the team Monday morning at Kraft Field before the Whiskey Jacks departed for Minot. They played a three-game set against the Sabre Dogs, going 1-2.
They played their first game at Kraft Field on Friday night.
“I think she fits right in,” said Whiskey Jacks No. 3 hitter Jake Hjelle of East Grand Forks. “Watching her take at bats, she’s really smooth. She knows what kind of player she is and what kind of fielder she is, and she plays her role very well.”
Hicks played her role well in her first game at Kraft Field — batting from the left side and playing second base in the field — and made more Expedition League history doing it.
“It’s high competition, definitely,” she said. “I can definitely feel myself getting better from day to day, even if I’m not on the field. . . the reps and the guys are helping me out. It’s definitely interesting, but it’s been good.”