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Hearld commits to FHSU

4/29/2014

By AUSTIN COLBERT

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Hays High School junior Hannah Hearld was going to try and keep her decision quiet, maybe wait until after softball season was over to make it public.

But social media being what it is, this just wasn't going to happen.

"Some of the Fort Hays players tweeted me and it just got out, so I was like, well, might as well just make it known officially," Hearld said.

Hearld, Hays High's ace pitcher, already has a handful of offers to play college softball, including a couple from smaller Division I schools. But on Saturday at the Fort Hays State University softball team's final home game against Nebraska-Kearney, Hearld decided to end the discussion and committed to play for FHSU after high school.

FHSU has offered her a scholarship to become a Tiger.

"It's been overwhelming with all the support that I've been getting," Hearld said. "I've had a lot of people contact me, like former coaches and my summer team. Those players all reached out to me, and the Fort Hays players all reached out to me. It's just a really good feeling."

Hearld has known FHSU softball coach Erin Kinberger since she was an assistant coach at Fort Hays, having taken over the program in June 2011, and has trained with Kinberger's husband, Billy, the Tigers' strength and conditioning coach and wellness specialist at The Center for Health Improvement.

But it wasn't until the beginning of the spring season that Erin Kinberger asked to watch Hearld pitch and hit, and soon after offered her a scholarship to play at Fort Hays.

"I just felt in my heart it was the right place to be," Hearld said. "I wanted to support my hometown and be a part of it. The coach is awesome and the players are making me feel really welcome like I'm already a part of it. After I left my visit I just knew that Fort Hays was the one."

Hearld's recruiting was slowed last year after she missed her entire sophomore season when she tore her anterior cruciate ligament. This also led to her missing the following summer, an important one for recruiting.

But Hearld returned this winter and by the time the spring softball season started, was back in prime shape. She threw a no hitter in her first high school game back and has been a dominant force all season for the 9-1 Indians, who play at Larned on Thursday and Great Bend on Friday. Hearld has pitched 55 of the team's 61 innings this season, giving up a total of 35 hits, 14 runs (10 earned), and has struck out 92 batters while walking only 12.

While she seriously considered the other offers she had --  and understands there might be more to come --  Hearld's ties with FHSU and its softball program were too deep for her to play anywhere else.

"Ever since I started playing softball my dad would always take me out to watch them. I've been a big fan," Hearld said. "It's just nice because all my family will be here to support me. ... It's a really nice relief that I got it over and I can just relax and play and know where I'm going and what my future holds. It's good."