Three booked for college flight

Published 10:09 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Key players making possible the reign of Fuqua School’s state champion varsity softball team announced in a ceremony Monday where they would be taking their talents after they graduate later this year.

Madelyn Bickford has committed to play for Mary Baldwin University, in Staunton, Regan Ware is set to play for Ashland University, in Ohio, and Brittany Malone will play for Shenandoah University.

Their joint signing ceremony took place in Gilmer Gymnasium before a large crowd of family, friends, coaches and classmates.

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All three girls have similar backgrounds in the sport of softball, starting their playing careers at the age of 4, but their unique experiences helped shape what the college signing milestone meant to them.

Bickford said, “It means a lot, because coming into my senior year, I wasn’t going to go play softball. I had made my mind up that physical therapy school was going to be too hard and that I wanted to be a physical therapist, and playing softball with that was just going to be too much.”

But that perspective was tested.

“I went and toured Mary Baldwin and got to talk to the coach, and she was like, ‘Talk to some of the girls, ask how they’re doing,’” Bickford recalled. “And I got to talk to the girls, and they were like, ‘Oh, no, you’ll be fine.’ So I think it’s going to be fun.”

She said she decided that she might be meant to play college ball.

And Bickford has an idea of how Mary Baldwin coaches may use her abilities.

“I’ll probably be in middle infield,” she said. “That’s where I played when the coach came and watched me.”

In addition to play NCAA Division III softball, she plans to major in health sciences with the goal of becoming a physical therapist.

For helping her reach this level of achievement in softball, Bickford credited “every coach that I’ve had in general — they’ve all contributed to where I’m at today.”

Amid Monday’s festivities, Ware noted thinking about the obstacles she had overcome to return to the softball field during her high school career to make a college career even possible.

She said being able to play college ball is “huge for me because of how many times I’ve gotten injured and I’ve wondered, ‘Is this going to be the last one?’ So having the opportunity to play for four more years is super exciting for me.”

Ware has been Fuqua’s starting pitcher and is also a standout hitter, drawing interest from a variety of schools in disparate locations.

“I had a lot of places very spread apart, and it took me a really long time to make the decision, definitely,” she said.

But Division II Ashland outshined the other opportunities on and off the field for Ware.

“Pitching was what I wanted to do, and Ashland only has three pitchers on the roster, and so I definitely would get the playing time,” she said. “And Ashland is just a really great school. It feels like a D1 when you’re on campus. It’s just a lot bigger than the other ones.”

She plans to major in geology and environmental science.

Ware said that key to helping her reach the college level in softball was “Chris Cauthorne, my travel coach, he’s here today. I almost quit softball after my ACL tear, and he kept me playing, so I would definitely shout him out, and my mom, because she made me keep pitching too.”

Malone had been dreaming of Monday for a long time.

“It means a lot to me, because when I was little, I was so ready to go to college,” she said. “It was my dream to play softball, because I’ve been playing softball, again, since I was 4.”

The college selection process has unfolded over the course of a couple of years for Malone, leading her to Division III Shenandoah.

“I’ve been looking at colleges since I was in 10th grade, and from Shenandoah, they’ve been looking at me since 10th grade, and I didn’t know that,” she said. “And when I toured the school, I loved the school. … It was just really fun. … I loved the coaches, and they said that I could possibly be playing as a freshman for first base and hitting.”

Like Bickford, she wants to go into physical therapy. She will be majoring in exercise science and then going to graduate school.

For helping her reach the college diamond, Malone said, “I would give thanks to my family, especially my mom, my aunt and my grandma …”

And Malone spoke through tears as she expressed gratitude to one other beloved family member.

“Also I want to give a shoutout to my grandfather because he was there every day through every practice, and he was the one that pushed me the hardest,” she said. “I try to be the best that I can be in honor of him.”