November 8, 2017 10:39:23 PM
CARROLLTON, Ala. -- Lauren Duckworth has never shied away from hard work or had a bad attitude.
But Pickens Academy softball coach Wade Goodman admits Duckworth can be "hard-headed" at times. Surprisingly, Goodman said part of Duckworth's stubbornness involved not believing she could play softball in college.
"Several of them don't believe until it really becomes a reality that I can really do this," Goodman said.
Duckworth admits Goodman always told her she could play softball at the next level, but it wasn't until recently that she believed him.
On Wednesday, Goodman's words became a reality when Duckworth committed to play softball at the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus in a signing ceremony in the school's cafeteria.
"I thought softball was going to be something I was done with after high school and I was just going to focus on my education," Duckworth said. "Last year, I realized I wasn't going to be ready (to be done with it) after my senior season."
Duckworth, who has played virtually every position for the Lady Pirates, said she wanted to stay close to home and go to a small school. She plans to study to become a high school English teacher and a coach while at The W, which has welcomed intercollegiate athletics back to its campus this year. The school's softball team will begin play in 2018.
Duckworth said her mother graduated from The W, which made it even easier to want to become an Owl. She said it has been nice to know people like Goodman always believed in her and that her teammates always had her back.
"There are still a lot of coaches out there who believe in somebody who knows how to play the game as opposed to (relying on) the stopwatch or how hard you can throw or fast you can run," Goodman said. "She brings the intangibles to the field. She gets rid of the ball quick. She hustles everywhere she goes. She is a good outfielder and infielder. She is a good leadoff hitter. She makes good contact and has good gap power -- things you can't notice on a stopwatch.
"She is a winner. She wants to do well every at-bat."
Goodman said another example of Duckworth's love for the game is how she transitioned from being a right-handed hitter to a left-handed one. He said she is the best leadoff hitter he has coached.
Goodman said Duckworth's best position probably is second base because she has great hands. He said she also is a very good outfielder.
Duckworth said her defensive ability, her speed, and her mental approach have helped her earn an opportunity to play in college. Last season, she played shortstop and third base for the Lady Pirates.
Duckworth isn't sure where she will play in the spring for her senior season or at The W, but she is confident she will be able to transition to the college game. She said years of playing travel ball have prepared her for the next step.
"It is kind of bittersweet," Duckworth said. "It is good to know I am going on and doing what I want to do, but it is said because I know this is slowly coming to and end here, but it has been good. It has been fun.
"It is going to be a new experience (at The W). I have been playing here since seventh grade, so I am used to everything. Going to college is going to be a new and interesting experience. I think I will adjust pretty well. I tend to make new friends."
Besides, it will be easier now that Duckworth believes.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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