Since reaching middle school, senior Whitley Ward has played her home softball games on GMC Prep’s Couch Field.
After graduation this spring she will still be practicing and playing on that same diamond, but the competition level will be bumped up quite a few notches. Ward signed Tuesday to continue her softball-playing career locally for Georgia Military College and head coach Ashley Bunn.
“Ever since I started playing softball I've wanted to play in college, so knowing that I have two more years — especially knowing the team I’m going to have — I'm so excited,” Ward told The Union-Recorder shortly after putting pen to paper in front of her classmates, friends and family members.
The stellar senior said her decision to play at GMC came down to familiarity and proximity. She already has a good rapport with her future head coach in Bunn and she wanted to remain close to home.
“I couldn’t think of a better person to be my first player to go to the next level,” said Jennifer Deason, who just finished up her first season as GMC Prep softball head coach. “She’s a great player and a great kid. She’s grown and matured just from the start of this year. This year she really stepped into that leadership role the team needed. I think she’s going to do great things at the next level.”
Ward has split her time in the field at third base and catcher throughout her varsity career before taking on an entirely different challenge entering her senior season. The team’s lone senior lined up at shortstop and batted out of the 3-hole where her bat and glove helped GMC Prep softball return to the game’s biggest stage in 2019 — the GHSA Fastpitch Softball State Championships in Columbus — after the Lady Dogs were knocked out a round too early a year ago.
The GMC signee’s list of accomplishments is one any high school student-athlete would want to call their own after having finished up their four years. Ward is a four-time First Team All-Region selection, three-time Union-Recorder All-County honoree (so far) and has been named All-State twice with possibly a third distinction coming as voting is slated for today. Ward’s senior year numbers really pop off the page as she hit for a .450 average that includes 50 total hits, and she nearly has an RBI for every one of those hits as she finished with 44. Ward also belted three homers and 15 doubles in her final high school campaign that saw the team finish 28-9.
Ward says she plans on using her two years at GMC to decide on her future. Whether or not she continues playing softball beyond her Lady Dog days depends on the career path she winds up choosing. That may be an unknown, but what Ward does know is that she would not be in the position she is today without the help of many.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me get here, the coaches at GMC, Coach Matt (Goins, travel ball coach) and especially my dad,” she said. “Those are the people that have influenced my life the most. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be playing softball right now.”