When she took the mound for the Laurinburg Optimist All-Stars at the age of 9, Katie McLaurin and father Boyd could hear the laughter from opposing teams during a tournament held in New Bern, N.C.
McLaurin was, after all, a girl pitcher preparing to toss against five other all-boy teams back before she was a member of the late Phillip Hayes-founded Optimist softball program, which formed in 2005.
But then the games began.
“She struck out all those boys that said she couldn’t do it,” Boyd McLaurin said. Daughter Katie would later be a member of the very first Optimist All-Stars’ softball squad that won their region and competed in the 2006 state tournament.
“They definitely weren’t laughing at her afterwards. That’s my fondest memory of Katie’s days playing baseball and softball when she was younger,” he said.
The Laurinburg All-Stars would finish second place in the tournament; but after it concluded, McLaurin was presented with a baseball signed by coaches and teammates in a sign of respect for her on-field accomplishments.
It would be just the start of McLaurin’s accolades as she continued working towards becoming a prolific student-athlete. And recently, the Marlboro Academy senior parlayed her success into a scholarship with Wingate University, where she will continue her softball and academic career after she graduates in 2013.
“Wingate will feel just like home to me,” said McLaurin, who narrowed her decision down between Wingate and UNC-Wilmington before settling on the lady Bulldogs. “It’s the perfect fit, and I’m excited to be a part of the school and seeing what else I can do with softball and working towards a future career.”
When she begins her fifth season with the Marlboro Academy softball team next spring, McLaurin will continue to be an essential part of the team’s championship core. In addition to collecting several MVP, all-region and all-state honors with the lady Dragons, McLaurin also played a key role in leading her team to its’ first-ever Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA) AA State Championship last season.
During that team’s historic run, McLaurin hit over .400 with more than 20 RBIs and continued establishing herself as one of the top defensive short stops in South Carolina.
“Katie is a wonderful athlete and is a girl on the team that you can count on to make great plays when it matters most,” said Scotty Jacobs, who along with Norman Quick and Boyd McLaurin form the trio of head coaches for the lady Dragons. “She’s very intense, always focused and has a winning attitude. I’ve seen a lot of players come along but I’ve never seen a girl do the things that Katie does out there in that field on a nightly basis.”
McLaurin is also a dedicated travel softball player as well, which has helped polish her skills year-round while providing another vessel for her relentless work ethic. When the 18U Carolina Wildcats found themselves in need of a short stop two years ago, McLaurin was brought to head coach Jeff McPhail’s attention and would later join the team. As the only member of the lady Dragons on the team, McLaurin seamlessly carried over her winning pedigree and became a fixture in the top-four of the team’s batting lineup during her tenure there.
“It’s not just how hard Katie plays, but it’s the work she dedicates to softball in the days leading up to our weekend tournaments that I like about her the most,” McPhail said. In addition to her various team conditioning regimens, McLaurin also runs on her own three times a week and has worked with hitting coach Joe Critcher for the past seven years.
“Katie has been a great asset to our team and is truly the combination of being a great kid coming from a great family,” he said.
Presently it’s business as usual for McLaurin, who has allowed herself little time to celebrate her collegiate decision. The basketball season is now in full swing, and McLaurin seeks to continue adding to her equally-decorated hoops career that is lined with several regular season, region and tournament MVP awards. Her academic career has also seen success in equal measure, as McLaurin is the student council president at Marlboro Academy and also participates in the Beta Club, Interact Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
With lady Dragons’ softball teammate Megan Quick recently making her intentions of continuing her playing career at East Carolina University known, McLaurin believes that success has proven contagious at Marlboro Academy.
“Marlboro has never really had kids going and signing with college athletic programs, so this senior class has been pretty special,” McLaurin said. “It’s going to be tough leaving everyone after five years, but I’d like to think that there’s many younger players at the school that can do the same things we have during our time here.”