MATTOON -- Grace McDowell doesn’t like being that far away from home. She’s also a standout softball player for Mattoon High School who has a bat that is college ready.
Luckily for McDowell, there is a pretty good softball program right in her hometown - Lake Land College. McDowell was interested in Lake Land and there was mutual interest from Lady Lakers softball coach Nic Nelson.
After looking at a few other programs, McDowell chose to stay at home and on Tuesday she signed her National Letter of Intent to play for the Lake Land softball team.
“I am very excited. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity to be able to play with a great program and have a great coach with Nic,” McDowell said. “Lake Land felt more at home (than the other choices). It is home. It will be nice. I don’t like to be away from home at all. It’s definitely going to be easier.”
McDowell also looked at Olney Central College, Frontier College and St. Ambrose University.
McDowell will be joining a program that has had plenty of success in Nelson’s nine seasons as the head coach. They’ve made it to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament seven times and qualified for the tournament the last three seasons.
“It will be a lot of fun and a lot of hard work and dedication,” McDowell said. “You have to have the right mindset going into it and I think I am ready.”
McDowell is the second Mattoon softball player to sign with Lake Land since head coach Hannah Dow took over the program two years ago. Abe Lee signed over the summer. Dow was the first player Nelson signed when he was the head coach at Heartland Community College. Nelson and Dow’s mothers grew up together and Nelson and Dow’s fathers graduated high school together.
Nelson is excited to add a player of McDowell’s caliber to the roster and feels she can jump right in and compete for the third base spot next fall.
“Just the talent she’s going to bring to the team. We really think she’s going to jump right in and be an impact player for us next year,” Nelson said. “We like her role at third base and we think that’s the role she can fill at Lake Land. The number one thing we like about Grace is her competitiveness. When you watch her play, her desire to win and you don’t see that in many kids. We are pretty excited about getting her on the roster.”
Nelson thinks McDowell’s hitting will be a key asset for the team next fall.
“She could compete with us right now. I believe she’s that much of a talent. The bats were something we struggled with last year which is not something that’s typically our problem. This year’s class, the bats were the most important thing to me,” Nelson said. “I am looking for on-base percentage. She plays a role with that.”
McDowell thinks she can have a nice impact in college with Lake Land. McDowell batted .382 last season and hit five home runs.
“I feel like I am going to come in and have a competitive edge and I am going to be able to compete. I want (the third base spot) really bad. I think if I work hard enough, I can take it,” McDowell said. “I feel like if I continue to put in the work, I will be ready.”