STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State signee Holly Ward was named the Alabama Gatorade Softball Player of the Year according to an announcement from the organization on Thursday. Ward, who played for the Haleyville High School varsity squad since seventh grade, signed with the Bulldogs in November and will begin her MSU career in August of 2014.
"I am thrilled for Holly," Mississippi State head coach Vann Stuedeman said. "This a big-time achievement and she is an elite player. We are extremely excited to have her wearing the Bulldog jersey the next four years."
Ward, who carried the Lions to back-to-back Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 4A state championships as a sophomore and junior, guided the team to a third-place finish this spring. During her final campaign, she posted a 25-9 record to go along with a 0.80 earned-run average and 335 strikeouts in 219.1 innings. She surrendered only 66 hits.
Not limiting her skills to just the pitching circle, Ward hit .432 with eight home runs and 64 runs batted in during her senior year.
“Ward is a terrific presence on the field and on the mound,” Hamilton coach Patrick Sutton said. “She has a lot of velocity and multiple pitches. She hits her spots and she never gets rattled.”
The 2012 and 2013 state tournament most valuable player, Ward earned a spot on the 2013 Alabama Sports Writers Association (ASWA) Super All-State Team and was the only non-senior of the 10-member squad after going 27-9 with a 0.89 ERA in 250.2 innings.
A First-Team ASWA All-State selection as a sophomore and junior after earning an honorable mention nod as a freshman, Ward also received 2013 MaxPreps First Team Medium Schools All-America honors. She proved to be a dual threat as a junior, batting .419 with 67 hits, 50 runs batted in, 27 doubles and five home runs while also fanning 310 batters from the pitching circle.
Away from softball, Ward has maintained a 3.82 grade-point average. She has assisted as the co-editor of her school’s yearbook, volunteered locally on behalf of the Red Cross, the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program and served as a youth softball instructor.
The Gatorade Player of the Year recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.
Ward is now a finalist for the Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year award announced in June.