Olivia Lacewell realized her little girl dream. For Leah Jones, softball was just a reason to pull her nose out of a book.
However, they came to be sitting beside each other Friday enjoying the spotlight, the futures of the two Killeen Lady Roos softball players are tied together.
Jones and Lacewell both signed national letters of intent to play for Prairie View A&M and were honored during a ceremony Friday in the Killeen High gymnasium in front of friends and teammates.
“We’ve known each other for four years, played with each other for four years and it just feels good to know that we’re going to be playing at the same school and same level and we’re together through it all,” Jones said. “I’ll have someone to look up to and lean on. She’s going through what I’m going through — we’re going to push each other.”
Lacewell dreamed of the moment when softball would be her future as soon as she could hold a bat. At first, the Lady Roos ace, a four-year starter, wanted to play in the Olympics, but softball was dropped from the Summer Games in 2005. Jokingly, she said she’d “settle” to play for the United States national team.
Regardless of circumstances out of her control, Lacewell never doubted that her future included softball in some form. And signing with the Division I Panthers was the first step of realizing her dream.
“It’s surreal. It’s amazing. I’ve had tons of support and people telling me I can do it. Now that I’ve done it and I’ve shown them I could do it, I’m glad to make them proud and I’m proud of myself,” Lacewell said.
While Lacewell grew up imagining herself playing big-time softball, Jones, a speedy switch-hitter, admitted she grew up more as a bookworm.
Then, she decided to close the books every now and then, thus opening her current opportunity.
“I felt like softball would be a new experience and it would bring challenges to push myself to do better,” Jones said. “It’s hard to believe that I’m actually going to be a Division I softball player, but I’m happy.”
Jones picked up the sport about five years ago and began taking it more serious following her freshman season when she was recruited to play on Lacewell’s travel team. Killeen softball coach Randy James transitioned Jones from being a right-handed batter, where she struggled to make contact, at the end of her freshman season to a successful slap-hitter from the left side.
“Now, she’s not just a slapper, she’s a hitter from that side,” James said. “And, with her speed, (her batting) is just unbelievable. She’s more the outgoing.
“Then, you’ve got Olivia, who’s that silent leader. She’s focused when she needs to, but she lets her actions on the field take care of it. And, it’s been her dream (to play in college) since she was a little girl and she’s turned out to be a tremendous player.”
The Lady Roos duo were both District 8-4A all-district second team selections last season and will lead the team in their first 5A season since 2001 this year. Then, they’ll transition, together, to Prairie View.
“Me and Leah, we’ve been teammates for this school and summer ball for four years now — we’re practically family — so it’s just going to be like playing with my sister,” Lacewell said.
“It’ll definitely help already having a friend at the school with you and to help you learn and experience things with you. ... I think that’ll just make me stronger as a person, make her stronger as a person. It’ll do us good in college.”