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Senior near end of great career

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 21, 2002

LECANTO -- Thursday was senior night.

That's when it hit Jill Bandhauer. High school almost is over.

"It's hard to believe it's already coming to an end," Bandhauer said. "I was like, "Holy cow, this is my last home game.' "

Sometime soon, the four-year starter and Jacksonville University softball signee will play her final prep game.

She will leave Lecanto with 14 varsity letters: four each in softball and volleyball, two each in basketball, track and weightlifting. She earned one all-area honor after the other and is the school's first Division I softball recruit.

In her company Thursday was Dianna Bandhauer, her mother. Dianna, an ex-junior college tennis player, is more than Jill's biggest fan. Dianna is the one who taught her how to play softball, and she's a close confidant.

"She tells me a lot of things," said Dianna, who teaches at Lecanto Primary. "Her friends all say, "I can't believe you told your mother that.' "

Jill and her mother are friends. And what's funny is that they actually look and act a little alike. Over the phone, it's difficult to tell them apart.

"People tell me we laugh the same," Jill said. "We're very close. Everybody at school knows that."

To find the root of Jill's success (and many will remember her as one of the county's best players), one needs to look no further than her mother.

Dianna coached Jill in the early days and is the first to point out mistakes. Every Sunday, they practice together. And after every game, Dianna gives Jill advice.

"She's my hitting coach," Jill said. "We do a lot of drills. Mostly, she watches and corrects the way I swing. She makes sure that I don't drop my back shoulder and that I swing through the ball. And we always work on the position of pitches, how to hit it inside and outside. She's the one that taught me how to hit."

Dianna must know something. Jill is batting .443 and has 8 doubles and an area-best 25 RBIs. Dianna's teaching has been aided by Jill's desire to listen and learn.

"If she makes a mistake, she wants to try to know how to fix it," Dianna said. "If you coach her, you better have the answer because she'll ask the question.

"The coolest part is that she's willing to work so hard to make it happen. She goes to softball practice or to a game, then goes to the gym afterward or walks on the treadmill. Or, she does Tae-Bo. That's a hard workout."

What does Dianna like best about Jill?

"My favorite thing is that she's nice to everybody," Dianna said. "It's always great to hear somebody say, "Your kid is such a great athlete,' but it's even better to hear them say, "You know what, she's a nice person.' "

Jill went 2-for-4 on senior night and had two RBIs. She helped her team rally from six runs down to beat Ocala Forest 8-7. This week, the Panthers play host to the Class 4A, District 7 Tournament. Time is running out on Jill's spectacular prep career.

"It went so fast," Dianna said. "It just zipped by. The other night, somebody at the game said, "Hey, aren't you sad?' And I said, "Nope, I've got four more years.' "

-- Times staff writer Keith Niebuhr can be reached at 860-7337 or

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