Harlem softball coach Mike Leverett tries each year to find college scholarships for his players, and sometimes for other area players.
This year's class included four Bulldogs seniors who earned scholarships to continue playing softball.
Outfielder Alana Dyson, one of the area's top players last season, signed her intent to play for Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y.
Dyson also had an offer from East Tennessee State, but said she couldn't turn down the combo of softball and academics Colgate offered. The school was ranked in the top 20 among liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report in 2008.
"I liked the academics, just because I know I probably won't play softball after college," said Dyson, who was a first team all-state selection her senior season after batting .505 and stealing 31 bases. "You can't get much better than that."
Leverett said he sent Dyson's profile to various schools, but that most already had heard about her from her time playing travel ball.
"I sure didn't contact Colgate," Leverett said.
Sending three other seniors to play at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville required more work.
Catcher Ashley Waites and outfielders Adrianna Woodard and Alex Johnson tried out at Georgia Military College and were offered scholarships. Leverett said he had scheduled multiple tryouts with schools in surrounding areas, and that Georgia Military proved the best fit for all three.
"I'm happy for them," Leverett said. "Those three girls will tell you, they never thought they'd get a chance to play college softball."
Said Johnson: "It's nice to go to the same place. We're all friends. We're all going to know somebody."
Johnson returned two weeks after her softball tryout to tryout for the soccer team. Diana Baruffa coaches both sports and offered Johnson a spot on both teams.
Johnson started playing both sports when she was 14, later than most of her teammates. But after a tough year playing in middle school, Johnson said she thrived with more one-on-one attention on her high-school teams.
Johnson said coaches told her she likely would play outfield or third base on the softball team and probably fullback or sweeper on the soccer team.
She said the group also tried out for USC Sumter, but that the school didn't offer scholarships. Georgia Military did and that was the choice.
"I don't think it's a college experience unless you leave home," Johnson said. "I get to leave home, but I'm not too far."
Waites had similar feelings. She said the Milledgeville area reminded her of Harlem.
"It's like home," she said. "And it's not too far from home."
Waites bounced back from being cut as a freshman to bat .297 as a senior with three home runs and 25 RBI. She said Baruffa told her she needed a good catcher and was excited about Waites' arrival.
Woodard will play in college after only a year at the varsity level at Harlem.
Leverett said Woodard played junior varsity as a junior so that she would be able to play every day.
"It helped her out a lot," Leverett said.
Woodard said coaches liked her speed and that she would work on her slapping and practice at Harlem during the summer before heading to Milledgeville.
Woodard said the three girls planned to try to room together.
"We're not really coming to something new," Woodard said. "We know each other."
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