The University of Illinois Fighting Illini softball team picked up some southern flavor Wednesday.
John Milledge Academy senior Kate Giddens signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her student-athlete softball days in Champaign, Ill. Despite the northern long distance, something felt homey.
“Right when I visited, the atmosphere felt like I was at home. I loved it when I stepped foot on campus,” Giddens said.
Playing all over the state and country reaching for the college softball end goal hit Giddens emotionally during Wednesday’s gathering at the Trojan Center.
Giddens thanked her parents, sister and family for their constant love and support. The local softball standout was quick to praise coaches Tony Ray, Greg Schnutt, Patrick O’Rielly, Todd Walters, Gordon Veal, Hollie Veal, Dan Wallace, and Missy Cavender, whose offered help and support through countless cross-country experiences.
“It’s kind of a miracle. When I was 10 years old, I remember telling my dad that I wanted to play college softball, and he said if you work hard enough you can do it,” Giddens said. “Ever since 10 and under, I’ve worked with all of these coaches that have made me the player I am today honestly. All of it goes to them and hard work.”
JMA head softball coach Kori Pickowitz said Giddens’ talent and athletic ability make her a well-rounded young lady.
“Between her talent and work ethic, she’s the competitor every coach wants on them team,” Pickowitz said. “She’s got coaches from all over the state of Georgia here today to support her decision that she has worked so hard for. This is her day to shine. The sky is going to be the limit for her at the University of Illinois.”
Under head coach Terri Sullivan, the Fighting Illini finished the 2013 season 22-27 overall with an 11-12 Big Ten Conference mark.
Giddens will come in her freshman season as a pitcher/utility.
“Kate is very versatile. She is an incredible pitcher. She may play a little first base and outfield,” Pickowitz said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she makes an impact. She is so coachable across the board that I think no matter what she does she’ll be a positive influence on that team and program.”
The Trojan senior loves the Illini coaching staff. She can’t suit up in the orange soon enough.
“My coaches are hard working and always going 110 percent. That’s exactly how I am. There is no time for anything else other than working hard. I’m excited to go into what my coaches have in store for me,” the new signee said.
In her JMA softball career, she was part of the 2010 Lady Trojan Region Championship and became the Best Offensive Player that year.
Giddens has earned All-Region and All-State honors the last two seasons as well. Her junior year stat line of a .588 batting average, 27 hits, 18 singles, three doubles, two triples and four home runs was a small sample that attracted major college teams.
Showing well-rounded qualities, Giddens was named the 2013 Homecoming Queen, is the National Honor Society president, member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, cast member in the One Act play and serves on the school’s yearbook staff.
Academically, she holds herself to a high standard maintaining a 3.94 GPA and taking dual enrollment courses at Georgia College. With a love of physics, Giddens could focus on physical engineering.
Giddens met the other early Illinois signees on an official visit a few weeks back. Two Illinois and one California recruit join the Georgia girl starting next fall.
“I’m excited to get to know all of these new people,” she said.