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Sports: Waccamaw infielder signs with Mississippi State

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Waccamaw High senior softball star Emily Heimberger made it official last week: She will play for Mississippi State University after finishing her high school career next spring. Heimberger has been committed to the Bulldog program since her junior year after attending a camp in Starkville.

“Nowhere attracted me like Mississippi State,” Heimberger said. “Minutes after I walked on campus I immediately fell in love with it. I got to go during a football game, so I got to see the full environment, the entire community. It was just an awesome site, and I felt at home there.”

Waccamaw High softball coach Scott Streiffert said Mississippi State head coach Vann Steudeman has generated excitement on campus by making the NCAA playoffs three years in a row with at least 33 wins each season. “Obviously, Emily is going into a situation that’s pretty much at an elite level,” he said. “When you are smart and fast and can handle the bat the way she can, I definitely think she can help them.”

Mississippi State assistant coach Samantha Rickets said the Bulldog staff is confident Heimberger will be a success. “What we’ve been impressed with,” Rickets said, “is how hard she’s worked and improved after she committed to us last year. She’s a great kid with a great attitude, very smooth on defense, consistent, steady and brings in the speed factor as well.” Heimberger is one of six players who signed with the Bulldogs last week.

Heimberger batted .596 last season for Waccamaw, her highest average for one season. She has been named all-state as a sophomore and a junior. Her goal next spring: another state title for Waccamaw High.

Heimberger has never been afraid of competition, Streiffert said. She scored a run for the Warriors in their state championship victory in 2010 as a seventh-grader and has played with an elite travel team, Lady Lightning, since ninth grade.

John Corn of Winston-Salem, N.C., coach of the Lady Lightning team, came to Heimberger’s signing ceremony at Waccamaw High last Thursday. “Emily is one of our most amazing athletes,” he said. “She’s a triple threat: hits for power, very fast and can play the short game. Beyond that, she’s our defensive general. She’s so smart in the infield that she makes all her teammates better around her. She controls our defense based on the pitch we are throwing, how many runners are on base, what the situation is. She is truly our field general.”

Waccamaw second baseman Caitlin Krask can testify to Heimberger’s defensive prowess. They’ve been playing together since third grade. “We kind of read each other’s minds,” Krask said. “We do a hand motion, raise an eyebrow. We don’t have to do anything big. We understand each other. We have each other’s backs.”

Corn said Heimberger’s defensive range and quick release will make it easy for the Mississippi State coaches to find a spot in the infield for her. The Lady Lightning showcases potential college players by traveling to tournaments as far away as California, Corn said. “The cool thing about Emily,” he said, “is that she was one of the first kids to play in our Futures Program created in 2010 when she was in eighth-grade. We have a recruiting process. We strategically put together a schedule where those coaches are going to be and she can go and play in front of them. She goes to camp on campus. Emily was a great fit because of her academics. With her athletic and academic scholarships, her college tuition is just about covered.”

Streiffert thinks Heimberger will probably move from her high school position of shortstop to second base in college. She plays second base for the Lady Lightning. “I remember when she turned around to be a ‘slap hitter’ and came to softball camp,” Streiffert said. “This is what can happen if you work hard. The exciting thing for me is that Emily is a greater person and student than she is a player, and she’s a pretty amazing softball player.”

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