— By GREG WEBB
It is not often a National Letter-of-Intent signing day has numbers of signees and proud coaches to rival well-wishers and family. That was nearly the case at the Weatherford College Mince Administration Building, Friday.
Seven sophomores from the yet-young WC softball program celebrated respective commitments to attend and play softball at four-year institutions.
Interim head softball coach Haylee Williams was understandably proud, and happy for her young women, but ceded that the day held some mixed emotions and found a definitive word to describe them.
“Bittersweet,” Willams said. “This is a great group of girls. [They are] good kids, hard workers and will do anything for each other. I’ve never had a group this talented.
“I’d love to keep them forever, but I’m glad I have had them for at least these two years.
“I am super-happy they’ve made the decisions they have, and I think they will all be very successful.”
With the WC softball program in just its second year of existence, a 22-4 North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference record (tops in the conference with six games remaining and a NJCAA Top-20 ranking for most of the season is pretty heady stuff, and both factors that have help put the fresh signees in the recruitment spotlight.
“Four-year schools want players from successful junior college programs,” Williams said. “We had a couple of sophomores on last year’s team, but these girls represent our first true sophomore class.
“This group came into this program knowing it was a new one, but wanting to get us on the map right away. And we’ve preached that to them — you may do well individually, but a successful team will help get you noticed. They bought in to that.”
Five of the Weatherford College girls have committed to NCAA Division II schools, with two accepting to D-1’s.
Schools looking for premier sluggers among the Coyotes batting order on this team hit pay dirt. Catcher Kortney Koroll, with 16 homers and a .929 slugging percentage will head to San Marcos next year to play at Texas State University. With 11 round-trippers each and 42 RBIs apiece, Luci Ponce and Katy Vandewater committed to Texas Woman’s University and Midwestern State University, respectively. All three sports batting averages above the .400 mark.
Pitcher Kylee Studioso, certainly no slouch at the plate, will take her arm to the circle at the University of Arkansas. Studioso currently sports a 1.92 earned-run average and has fanned 125 batters this season. The strike-out number would be higher if the WC offense was not quite so prolific at ending games early.
In WC’s outfield corps, combining hitting acumen with speed on the base paths, Aledo High grad Carolyn Clayton chose to sign with Arkansas’ Harding University and Samantha Alegria will also head to Denton to join Ponce at Texas Women’s University. Both outfielders hit in the high .300’s with nearly 40 RBIs each.
Emily Ditmore, an Azle High ex who was the inaugural signee to Weatherford College, has been productive since joining the Coyotes. She plays first base and has also taken up slack in the circle. Ditmore has inked her intentions with the University of Central Oklahoma.
After putting together impressive streaks in the conference slate, WC softball took its first double header loss on Wednesday, an event the WC women did not take well, according to Williams.
“It was an humbling experience for the girls, taking those two losses to McLennan,” she said. “ They were devastated and really took it hard, which I was really happy to see.
“Our practices the past two days have been really intense so, the losses may prove to be a positive, helping them to refocus. They hate to lose.”
WC’s Brent Baker, Vice President of Institutional Advancement, who also perpetuates the school’s flow of sports information, recognizes the uniqueness of how well the softball program has done while still in relative infancy.
“This is a very special team,” Baker said, “and we certainly don’t want to take that for granted. We play in a very good region in a very competitive sport.
“I think Coach Williams and Coach Flanagan have both done an incredible job.”