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By JOEL COLEMAN
Swayze Hollenhead has achieved plenty in her East Webster fastpitch softball career.
Now, she's gone where no Lady Wolverine before her has been.
On Wednesday at the East Webster library, in front of dozens of teammates, coaches, family members, and supporters, the Starkville Daily News 2010 Fastpitch Player of the Year became the first-ever Lady Wolverines softball player to sign with a NCAA Division I institution, sealing her commitment to Mississippi State.
"When I was younger, I always knew I wanted to play at an SEC school," said Hollenhead. "And I always wanted to be at State because it's so close to home, has such a great atmosphere, and lets me still be able to see my family. But it surprised me and I was shocked (when I found out Mississippi State was interested). I thought this could never happen to me."
Hollenhead achieving her goal was no accident. Aside from helping lead East Webster to four state titles over the course of her career heading into her senior season, Hollenhead has spent years perfecting her craft.
"I've seen it from T-ball and got to watch it all the way up," said Lady Wolverines coach Dallas Ferguson, who is also Hollenhead's aunt. "I've seen her grow. The thing is, to get to that D-I level, you've got to work. You've got to get out and face good pitching. Just last summer, (Hollenhead) faced Ivy Renfroe from Tennessee. It takes that kind of thing. It takes commitment. If you love it, you've got to work, and that's what's gotten her to this spot."
Hollenhead has played all around the infield in her East Webster career, spending time at second base, shortstop, and most recently, third base. She'll also pitch for the Lady Wolverines in the spring.
While Hollenhead may not get the chance to show it as much when she's on the pitching rubber, Ferguson believes her niece's glove may very well be her strongest asset.
"Defensively, she's the best kid that's ever come out of East Webster," said Ferguson. "She's all over the field. She's diving and just making plays. She plays like a boy. She just gives it all that she's got."
As inspirational as Hollenhead's play is, she hopes the example that she is setting by signing her letter of commitment to MSU speaks volumes to her teammates, much like a certain former East Webster football standout did for her.
"I like for (my teammates) to know if they work hard, they can do anything they want to," said Hollenhead. "You can do anything you put your mind to. Johnthan Banks is an example of that, too. I know I looked up to him when he signed with State."
As for Banks, a cornerback for the Bulldogs, he stepped in and made an immediate impact as a true freshman.
Hollenhead isn't sure if she will be afforded the same opportunity, but regardless, she plans to just keep putting forth the effort that brought her to this point.
"I'd love to get early playing time, but if I don't, I don't," said Hollenhead. "I'll just work hard and do my best."