Jill Robertson Middleton helped to turn her share of double plays as a shortstop and at second base for UL's Ragin' Cajuns, but her latest double achievement came as quite a surprise.
She and husband Shayne were preparing to welcome their first child into the family last year when things took an unexpected turn.
“We went in to get a sonogram, and the doctor said the heartbeat was good and strong,” Robertson said. “Then she said, 'Oh! A bonus! There's two heartbeats.' We were going to have twins.
“It came as a complete shock to me. There is zero history of twins in our families. I wish they'd had a camera on us when she told us. I know my face went completely white!”
Ready or not, though, here they came.
Son Brees – guess who he's named after – and daughter Baylen are now 11 months old and have changed Jill and Shayne's lives forever.
“It's been great, but it's exhausting,” Robertson admitted. “I thought maybe when they got a little older, it would be easier, but now that they're more mobile and have more energy, it's harder.
“There are a lot of ups and downs, for sure. When you have two at once, there's no easing in to anything. There are new challenges every day. You learn to celebrate the small victories.”
Robertson played an integral role in both large and small victories for Cajun softball in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005, missing 2004 with a knee injury. UL was 199-44 in her four campaigns, with four NCAA Regional appearances, the Women's College World Series in 2003, four Sun Belt Conference crowns (66-6) and four SBC Tournament titles.
She batted .292 for her career with 216 hits, 208 runs,, 43 doubles, 27 home runs,116 RBI and 50-of-61 success stealing bases, and capped it with a team-leading .366 hitting percentage in her comeback senior year.
Swift enough to win the 400-meter dash at the LHSAA State Track and Field Meet as a junior at Acadiana High, Robertson used that speed well in softball, her first choice of sports.
“I grew up watching Ragin' Cajun softball, and I played for Coach Stefni (Lotief) in travel ball,” Robertson said. “I took other visits, but I knew I would end up at UL. My heart was there. I wanted to play in my hometown, in front of family and friends.
“Track and field crossed my mind a few times, especially that (injured) senior year, but I was fully committed to be the best softball player I could be. It was in my best interest to stick to softball.”
Surprisingly, Robertson wasn't always sure she was good enough.
“A lot of my success was due to my work ethic,” she said. “I spent countless hours during extra reps. I always wanted to get faster, stronger. I never felt I was good enough.
“I'd had the opportunity to play with a lot of girls on the team, and that helped me ease into it. It takes time to develop the right mindset.”
Getting to know Alana Addison, the program's established star, helped the transition.
“She was willing to take the time to teach me, and eventually I was able to look upon her as a peer,” said Robertson, who relished team success over individual notoriety.
“It's important at a mid-major, like UL, to set a standard. I'm very proud of that. Fifteen years later, people still talk about those years, and if it's the right time, I'll always talk about it.
“(Teammate) Summar Lapeyrouse is amazing. She can remember details of every game we played. She always reminds me of minor details.”
Some details are major, though.
“In the 2003 NCAA Regionals, we had lost to Oregon (9-2) and needed to beat them to go to the World Series,” Robertson said. “And we had a pitcher (Brooke Mitchell) who was injured.
“It was a do-or-die situation. We talked about getting momentum early. I was hitting in the lead-off spot and wanted to be that spark for my teammates to follow. So, I led off with a home run.”
Properly lit, the Cajuns rocketed to a 6-4 victory and World Series berth.
“The World Series was a magical experience, as I hoped it would be,” Robertson said.
The Cajuns went 60-8 the next year, with Robertson on the shelf, so she worked feverishly to return to action in 2005.
“I had gone through it before,” she said. “I tore my ACL as a freshman at Acadiana. I had been through the protocol and knew what to expect. It's scary when you have a second time, and wonder if there will be a third and a fourth.
“But I had a great trainer and support system (at UL). I also had my shoulder worked on. It had been bothering me. I used my time to get fully healthy.”
Time, of course, is a precious commodity for a college athlete – especially so for a mechanical engineering major like Robertson.
“A lot of late nights, a lot of studying on the bus,” she said. “I had good relations with a lot of the guys in engineering, and they helped to keep me up. I also had the support of professors along the way. You also have to have the mindset to do it.
“At the time, I was one of the few female students to graduate in engineering.”
Robertson added a master's degree in bio-mechanical engineering and is a quality engineer with Stryker Corporation focusing on lights, routers and booms in operating rooms, allowing doctors to see the detail they need of their work on the screen.
“Stryker goes all over the world,” she said. “Two or three times a month, I'll travel all over the country to do troubleshooting. Lately, we've calmed the travel down a bit.”
Shayne proposed to Jill on the sidelines at Cajun Field in 2014, just after her induction into the UL Athletic Hall of Fame. They live in Weatherford, Texas west of Fort Worth. She has a 25-mile commute to work and he is in medical device sales in Dallas.
Two careers, two children and busy times abound. But there are times when softball makes another bow.
“I still dream about it,” Robertson said. “I dream I'm on the field, and it's my 7th or 8th year of playing. Sitting out is always an eye opener when you love the game. I cherished every moment of it.”
* * * * * Jill and here 2003 Women's College World Series teammates.
* * * * * * * To view the Softball Photo Gallery - click on Photo Gallery on the left side of www.athleticnetwork.net - Softball - the year you wish to view.
* * * * * Click here for Jill's Athletic Network Profile.
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