In the last couple of years, Mars Hill University has signed McDowell High athletes in a variety of sports, including basketball, football, golf and swimming.
You can add softball to the list.
Lady Titans pitching standout Lea Conner signed to play at Mars Hill last week. The signing comes on the heels of a breakout junior season for the hurler, who gathered an impressive list of postseason accolades last spring.
Conner said there were a number of reasons she liked the Lions’ program.
“It’s really close, only about 55 minutes away, it’s in a good division and they’re very competitive, so I liked that,” said Conner. “I liked the coaches a lot. In tournaments we’ve played, a lot of the coaches, when they’re talking to you, don’t get really engaged because they’re talking to a lot of people. But the coaches from Mars Hill really interacted with me and it made them stand out personally.”
Conner stood out big-time last season.
The junior led the Lady Titans with 80 innings pitched and notched a 2.98 earned run average with 116 strikeouts. She also hit .289 and drove in eight runs.
For her efforts, she was named to the All-Mountain Athletic 4A/3A Conference team, the North Carolina Softball Coaches Association All-District and All-State teams, and was named the NCSCA’s Region 8 Pitcher of the Year. The Lady Titans finished 11-10 and won the split MAC’s 4A championship in their final season as part of the conference.
“Lea is one of the hardest working kids I have known,” said McDowell head coach Catriona Young. “She competes hard and she’s good at taking things one pitch at a time. She’s a great student and I’m sure she’ll be successful at Mars Hill.
“They’re getting a good one.”
Conner said making the commitment to Mars Hill early would help her focus on improving her skills and helping the Lady Titans compete in the spring as part of the tough Northwestern 3A/4A Conference.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I have goals now and I know exactly what I need to work on. I know what the college coaches expect of me. I know what I have to work towards, and I know their conditioning is going to be very, very hard. I have to get myself in really good shape, and I’m looking forward to that.”
The NCAA Div. II Lions went 12-30 last season and were 5-15 in the South Atlantic Conference. Head coach Monica Gordy is in her eighth year at the helm. Conner said she plans to major in business administration management. Mars Hill has a five-year Master’s degree in the program, and Conner plans to follow that path.