Thomson High School standout softball pitcher Brooke Herkel signed a letter of intent Friday to play softball for North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega.
Herkel was all smiles as she described her plans for college. "I'm receiving a scholarship, and I'll be majoring in biology," she said after the signing. "Once I graduate from my major, I plan to transfer to UGA and study veterinary science."
Herkel's mother, Tammy Dees, was on hand for the signing.
"We're very excited about this," Dees said. "Brooke first got interested in softball when she was around 9 or 10 years old, and at first we thought she'd get tired of it and give it up. But she really liked it and stuck with it, and we've encouraged her all the way. And she's wanted to be a veterinarian since she was in fourth grade and has always been very conscientious about her grades because that's what she wanted to study in college."
Herkel started every game for Thomson this season, as the Bulldogs advanced to the playoffs and ended with an overall record of 13-15. In addition to a winning record as pitcher, Herkel amassed 15 home runs in the 2011 season and 27 homers in her high school career.
Community head coach Ty Poss was also on hand for the signing. "This is a great thing," Poss said. "Brooke really deserves this."
"She's a great athlete," agreed head coach Ayasia Hampton. "We're going to miss her."
Herkel's former head coach, Jason Osborn, who coached her for the first three years of high school ball, returned to THS to attend the signing.
"I always knew that Brooke would have a good shot at playing at the next level," Osborn said. "She's an extremely good player and even a better person. She has a lot of character and a great work ethic. I'm excited that she's going to be up in my area and I'll have a chance to watch her play, 'cause they're getting a heck of an athlete."
For now, Herkel's plans focus on the practical. "I just want to focus on my grades now, and not do anything to get hurt," she said.
"It's a dream come true," Herkel said of her chance to wear the Saints jersey at North Georgia. "It pays off when you work hard at something."
Herkel said her mother attended almost every game during her high school career, even taking days off work to follow the team to road games. "It means a lot to have support like that," she said.
Herkel said she had the help of amazing coaches during her high school career.
Joining Herkel at the signing were her mother and stepfather, Jake Dees, her brother, Austin Herkel, and her grandmother, Lorene Mayo.
(Garth Snow of The McDuffie Mirror staff contributed to this report.)