Wednesday, 13 November 2019 16:52

'Officially a Cobra': Hawkins inks letter of intent for Coker softball

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Kayla Hawkins (center) is joined by her parents Becky and Keith Hawkins during her official signing day on Wednesday. Kayla Hawkins (center) is joined by her parents Becky and Keith Hawkins during her official signing day on Wednesday. Michelle Parrish — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — It had been 521 days since Kayla Hawkins made her verbal commitment to play softball at Coker University. And the rising senior softball player finally made it official Wednesday during her official signing day.

Wednesday marked the first day that Division II athletes could sign their letters of intent, and Hawkins jumped on the opportunity to ink her future as a Cobra softball player. She verbally committed to play for head coach Travis McCall on June 11, 2018, just weeks after the end of her sophomore season.

Hawkins became the first Richmond Senior High School student-athlete of the class of 2020 to sign to her future home, celebrating in Richmond’s media center.

She was surrounded by her parents, Keith and Becky Hawkins, when she penned the next four years of her career. Also among those in attendance were former head coach Wendy Wallace, whom Hawkins played varsity for three seasons under, and first-year Lady Raider coach Mike Way. Several current and former teammates and friends also joined Hawkins on her special day.

“I feel so relieved and less stressed,” Hawkins smiled following her signing. “I finally feel like I made it and it feels good to see all the hard work pay off to put myself in this situation. I’m officially a Cobra now.

“The best part of today was seeing all of my family, friends, coaches and teammates there,” she added. “All of them have helped me along with my journey to get here.”

What closed the deal on what has been over a two-year journey, Hawkins’ decision to join the Cobras came over fellow Division II program Limestone College. She started gaining the interest of McCall and Coker ahead of her sophomore season when attended a softball camp during the summer of 2017.

Prior to the NCAA limiting when college coaches could speak with and scout players, the Coker coaching staff saw Hawkins in action with her travel ball team Carolina Elite. She went on her first unofficial visit to the campus in Jan., 2018.

“It’s always a good thing for a player to sign, and it shows the success of the program,” Way said of Hawkins. “It works both ways -- a program is successful because the kids work so hard, and that success helps players get noticed.

“High school softball and sports in general play a big part in recruitment,” he added. “The more recognizable players are, the more it helps. I’m happy for Kayla, and I want all the kids to find the right fit. And it seems she has.” 

A power-hitting infielder turned catcher, Hawkins has been part of a successful Lady Raider team the last three seasons. She was a part of back-to-back Western Regional final teams during her freshman and sophomore campaigns, and helped Richmond to the third round of the playoffs as a junior.

Last season, Hawkins made the switch from first base to catcher, and proved to be a reliable batterymate for former ace Greyson Way. She caught 28 games and was an integral part of the Lady Raiders winning their seventh consecutive Sandhills Athletic Conference title and a 25-3 overall record.

Gearing up for her fourth and final year on the varsity team, Hawkins has proven to be a strong asset on offense, too. Through her 88 career games played, she’s compiled a .296 batting average with 17 career home runs and 66 runs batted in. 

Batting in the No. 5 hole the past few seasons, Hawkins has also scored 75 runs and collected 72 hits in her career. She was named to her first All-Sandhills Athletic Conference team after her junior season, and was also one of four Lady Raiders chosen for the All-District 4 team last spring.

Her best season statistically was her sophomore campaign, where she batted .352 with nine homers, six doubles and 34 RBIs on 31 hits. All were career-highs for the future Cobra.

“I went to a camp a couple weeks ago, which made me even more excited,” Hawkins explained. “Coach McCall is also excited. 

“I can’t wait to get there,” she added. “The atmosphere and the softball girls are great. It’s going to be a great experience for me.”

In 2019, McCall and the Cobras went 31-19 overall, and finished seventh of 11 teams in a competitive South Atlantic Conference. Coker advanced to the second round of the SAC tournament and fell to Young Harris College and Lees-McRae College in the opening rounds of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.

While she’s excited to join the Cobras in Hartsville, S.C., next summer, Hawkins isn’t overlooking her role as a senior leader on this year’s Lady Raider team.

“My expectations are to step up and be a leader as a senior,” she said. “I just want all of us to work hard and go as far as we can.

“I want to thank my parents and grandparents, travel ball coaches, my trainers, and most importantly Coach Wallace and Coach (Shellie) Wimpey,” she closed.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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