ONA - Ginny Hardin finally is scratching an itch she has had for a year.
The former Cabell Midland softball star catcher turned Marshall University student has signed to play at West Virginia State University. After a year as a regular student, she decided to put the "athlete" back in student-athlete.
"I have the rest of my life to sit around, but not to play softball," Hardin said. "I guess the desire to play was in there deep down."
Hardin, 19 and a freshman athletically and sophomore academically, will have five years to play four.
As a senior with the Knights, she batted .470 with an on base percentage of .630 and a team-high 25 walks. Hardin was stellar defensively, committing no errors in helping Cabell Midland to a 20-6 record. Her abilities drew attention from several colleges, including West Virginia State, Marshall, Wright State and Valparaiso. Years of softball from Little League to travel ball to high school, though, had worn on Hardin and she opted to give up the game.
Hardin's decision surprised her dad Steve and mom Kellie, but they supported her decision. Hardin went to Marshall and majored in secondary education, which she plans to continue at West Virginia State. She said her goal is to earn a master's degree and go into school administration.
West Virginia State head coach Mattie Best continued to pursue Hardin even after high school.
"It kind of came out of nowhere," Hardin said. "State asked me a couple of times to come and told me this would be the final time and then they'd have to move on."
Hardin accepted the offer and said she is "kind of excited" to play again. She said the Yellow Jackets plan to play her in a utility role, meaning she could see time in the outfield, infield and behind the plate.
"I'll go wherever they want me to play," Hardin said. "
Since graduation, Hardin has helped with her alma mater's softball team, worked a job and gone to school. She played sparingly in a summer league, but has been working with noted hitting coach Adam Lalonde in Kenova and with her dad in the evenings. Hardin said the practice has helped her quickly regain a love for the game and she looks forward to taking the field again.
"Softball takes my mind off things - school, my job, paying for my car," Hardin said. "Real life has been good, but it's been eye opening."
Hardin not only is known for her ability, but her effort. During a camp at Marshall the summer before her freshman year of high school, she chased a home run in the outfield, put her foot through the fence and broke her nose.
At West Virginia State, Hardin will see familiar faces. She played with or against all but five of the players on the Yellow Jackets' roster, which features players she knows from Chapmanville, Coal Grove, Herbert Hoover, Huntington High, Hurricane, Man, Parkersburg, Point Pleasant, Wayne and Winfield.
"That will make it more comfortable for me," Hardin said. "It takes some of the nerves off that I don't have to impress my teammates since they already know me."