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SOFTBALL

Union Springs' Grace Van Horn signs letter of intent to pitch at St. Bonavanture

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UNION SPRINGS — Grace Van Horn completed the final step of her goal with a few strokes of the pen.

The Union Springs senior signed a letter of intent to pitch for the St. Bonaventure softball team on Thursday during a ceremony in the Union Springs High School library. Van Horn is believed to be the first Union Springs softball player to sign with an NCAA Division I program.

"I've had people tell me that I would not go Division I, because no one has ever gone Division I out of here," Van Horn said afterward. "That made me work even harder, because I wanted it so bad."

Before signing, Van Horn gave a long, emotional speech where she thanked her parents, coaches, teammates and teachers. While some helped her with hitting mechanics, others helped in the classroom or were a support system for her.

"I'm very grateful for everyone here today," Van Horn said. "I'm very grateful for my coaches, all the resources my parents put into me, and everything has come together. It's a dream come true, that's what it is."

Last year as a junior, Van Horn had a 17-3 record, 179 strikeouts and a 2.16 ERA over 123 innings. She added a .474 average with eight doubles, two triples, three homers and 33 RBI.

"I'm very excited for Grace and her family," Union Springs softball coach James Bona said. "This is something the athletes at Union Springs can look up to and aspire to. We haven't had an athlete come to this level in a really long time. Now they know it's possible. She's a great role model for all the athletes here."

Van Horn said the decision came down to St. Bonaventure having the academic programs she wanted, a good campus and a good softball team. She plans to major in biology on a pre-med track and eventually wants to become a doctor.

Before that, Van Horn has one more season with the Wolves. The goals include tossing her first perfect game — she does have two no-hitters — and leading Union Springs to a Section IV championship.

"I want to win sectionals this year," Van Horn said. "I feel like this is a great year to do it. We have great team this year. Hopefully everyone works together the way we think they will and we'll get it done."

For Bona, the expectations for the next softball season are high, but certainly attainable.

"Believe me, it's going to be an exciting springtime," Bona said. "Hopefully we can send Grace off with a great memory at the end of the year."

Sports writer Jeremy Houghtaling can be reached at 282-2256 or at jeremy.houghtaling@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenHough.

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