Ashlee LaFontaine grips the ball-point pen, wipes away a tear streaming down her cheek, scribbles her signature onto a piece of paper, and places her academic and athletic future in the hands of Erskine College faculty at a letter-of-intent signing Tuesday afternoon at Greenbrier High School.
Greenbrier softball player Ashlee LaFontaine smiles after signing a scholarship to play for Erskine College. Ashlee was joined at Tuesdays signing by her parents Mike and Mona LaFontaine.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Dozens of colleges and universities attempted to recruit the 17-year-old honor student and standout Lady Wolfpack catcher. She chose the South Carolina-based Erskine because she'll start on their softball squad while keeping a focus on her academics.
Planning to major in pre-med, Lafontaine said larger universities would have required her to spend as much as 40 hours a week on softball, severely cutting into her study time. Erskine promised her enough time to maintain her GPA while still holding an integral spot on the squad.
"I'm excited to be playing for Erskine, but I'm going to miss this team," she said. "I'm very proud to have played at Greenbrier."
She has reason to be proud. The Greenbrier girls dominate Region 3-AAAA ball. They have won their region the past eight years. The team won the past four region championships in no small part due to Lafontaine's exceptional play.
"You realize we won 96 games with her behind the plate," Greenbrier softball coach Garrett Black said.
Last season alone, Lafontaine produced a .345 batting average and drove in 30 runners. She's been named to All-County and All-Region teams, and this June will play in the state's AAAA All-Star Game.
Beyond her skill with a bat and glove, Black said Lafontaine's brain led the Lady Pack to many victories.
"I was perfectly comfortable with Ashlee calling the shots on our defense," he said. "She's such a natural leader that it was like having another coach on the field."
All the accolades aside, Lafontaine said she's simply happy for the chance to play four more years of softball.
"Unfortunately, there is no professional softball, so these last four years mean a lot to me," she said. "I love this sport and I'm going to miss it when it's over. I want to make as much of these next few years as I can."
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