The phrase,”You can’t have your cake and eat it, too” doesn’t apply to the Lady Hawks of the Mill Creek High School softball team. The team, which has been part of a historic winning tradition, finished the year ranked fifth in the state.
Now, a trio of Hawks – Lauren Bennett, Taylor Rogers and Brittany Abbott– will continue their careers on the diamond at the collegiate level.Lauren Bennett, who played short stop for Mill Creek, has signed the Owls of Kennesaw State University. It was important for Bennett to make her dream of playing collegiate softball a reality.
“Ever since I was little, I watched college softball on TV and always wanted to be them. It was not only a dream but a goal of mine to make it to the next level,” said Bennett.
Scott Whitlock, who was the head coach of the Owls last year, will not return under the helm next season. Despite Whitlock’s departure, Bennett said she never reconsidered playing at Kennesaw and is confident in the Owls’ new leader, Wes Holly Jr.
“Coach Whitlock has been an amazing person to me and I feel like I’ve known him for a while but sadly he won’t be able to be my coach,” said Bennett. “I never once reconsidered it because I had faith in him that he would leave the team in great hands.”
“I actually have met him [Holly] and talked to him a lot because he was the assistant coach for Coach Whitlock and he was always out watching me and my other teammates play. He was always by Coach Whitlock’s side even in the recruiting process,” Bennett said.
There were a number of factors that played a role in Bennett’s decision to play at KSU and the competitive level of play will give Bennett the experience like no other.
“Kennesaw is a beautiful school and the location is great, but the atmosphere of the entire college just felt right to me. Everyone around is great and friendly and the team and coaches are amazing,” Bennett said. “I am looking forward to the intense competition of college softball and the amount of emotion put into the game at this level.”
The 2012 Southernhern Conference Champions will have another great addition to help them achieve a two-peat. Outfielder Taylor Rodgers will join the Eagles and noted their finish from a year ago played a role in her decision to play there.
“The recruiting process for me was very quick. I made a late decision on whether or not I was going to be playing softball at the college level, which caused my recruiting to be a little behind everyone else,” said Rogers. “I literally set up visits to two schools the day after state and from there, I made my decision to attend GSU next year. The campus is absolutely gorgeous and a very fun environment.”
“The fact that the Eagles were SoCon champions did play a small roll in my decision. It made me realize how good of a team the Eagles are despite what a lot of people may think. I am looking forward to being on a winning team,” said Rogers.
Two years ago, Rogers contemplated whether or not she wanted to continue her softball career. Yet, she decided the return to the game and coming out of retirement paid off asshe will be competing at a Division 1-AA university. Rogers hopped on the recruiting trail a little later than most but her skills on the diamond earned her the attention of an elite softball program.
“In my heart, I have always wanted to play at the next level. Although I went through a major slump two years ago and took a summer off from softball, that break from softball made me realize I want to continue playing softball at the next level,” Rogers said.
The Hawks softball program hasn’t been around for a decade yet they’ve boasted countless wins, have a state championship under the belt and have made an appearance in the state tournament the last five out of six seasons. Rogers will take her winning ways to the Eagles and noted her career with the Hawks will lend a hand as she begins another four years with her new team.
“Playing for Mill Creek has prepared me for the next level because with my coaches’ help, I realized that I am capable of so much more than I [ever thought]. Coach [Roger] Parham taught me that if I work hard, anything is possible,” Rogers said.
“I am looking forward to traveling and playing lots of teams that I have only dreamed of playing against and really I am excited to play for Coach [Annie] Smith,” said Rogers. “She is a great woman and I can’t wait to be a part of her team.”
Outfielder Brittany Abbott will head to Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs. Abbott may have two roles with the Lions which will make her a dual threat on the diamond. The Lions finished the 2011-2012 season at 27-31.
“Next year, I will be playing some outfield as I did in high school. However, I will be playing some infield, too, which will most likely be second base,” said Abbott. “I have played both positions through high school ball and travel ball but I’ve never been able to decide which one I like best. I just go wherever the team needs me [the] most.”
Emmanuel is a small private institution founded on Christian values and Abbott says she is especially privileged to play collegiate softball while learning at a university that puts God first.
“To play softball at the college level is a blessing but getting to play for a Christian college is definitely an additional perk,” said Abbott. “I just love the Christian atmosphere and I love being in it. The atmosphere is definitely important to me but I will truly be getting the best of both worlds by [attending] and [playing] at this college.”
Thousands of high school athletes are looking for a place to call a home after they graduate — a place where they continue to excel in their respective sport. While most will have to put their cleats to rest, Abbott says she is thankful to have another four-year stint in softball.
“It’s so exciting to be able to keep my softball career rolling as I head into college,” said Abbott. “What makes it exciting is the fact that most people stop once they are at the high school level but for me, it’s not over yet. Softball is my passion and has been since I was youngster. I just can’t wait to have even more fun and make memories with my new team next year.”