ROCKINGHAM — Owen Bowers knew this day was coming back when she verbally committed in June, but finally signing her name on the dotted line removed the “huge weight” that had been sitting on her shoulders.
She no longer has to think about where she’s going to play college softball and now can place all of her focus on the upcoming season — which’ll be her final campaign in a Lady Raider uniform.
“This means it’s actually set in stone,” she said. “It’s great. I’m just really excited that it’s finally official.”
Surrounded by her parents and coaches in the school library Thursday afternoon, Bowers signed her letter of intent to continue her softball career at Florida SouthWestern State College — a junior college in Fort Myers.
The senior catcher plans on attending SouthWestern for two years and then accepting a scholarship offer from a Division I softball program, as the Lady Buccaneers — who finished third overall in the nation last season — have a history of getting players the necessary exposure and sending them the highest level.
She expects her hitting power to bring a different dynamic to a program that has recently been known for its speed around the bases, but she’s also looking forward to getting faster and learning how to play the SouthWestern way.
“It’s my dream to play DI (softball),” Bowers said. “I’m hoping to bring (SouthWestern) the same thing I brought to Richmond. More power…and just everything. I want to get faster and stronger in order to help them.”
Richmond’s head softball coach Wendy Wallace was on hand Thursday and said she believes Bowers will have “a lot of opportunity” when she steps on the Florida campus — just like she did three years ago as a ninth-grader.
“She’s been a game changer for us since she stepped onto the field as a freshman. She stepped in the starting role behind the plate and has been there ever since,” Wallace said. “There’s no stress, she just goes out there and plays.”
As a junior last season, the future Lady Buccaneer registered 42 hits, 37 RBI, batted .452, and finished with 190 put outs.
Her nine home runs tied for fourth best in the state for 4A softball and helped her break the program record for most over-the-fence hits in a career. She currently sits in first place alongside junior teammate Greyson Way with 22 homers.
“She’s got a phenomal bat, she’s got tremendous bat speed and she’s smart about the game,” Wallace added. “The best thing is that she just works hard every day and she’s only going to get better.”
With volleyball season ending last week, and softball season not officially starting until late February, Bowers has plenty of time to prepare for what she hopes to be another long run. She wants to hit more home runs this season, help the team make it past the NCHSAA 4A Regional Finals — where it fell to North Davidson this past year — and win a state championship before she walks across the stage.
That would put a cap on a record-breaking career at Richmond and set up a promising two-year stay in the Sunshine State.
“They have a beautiful campus,” Bowers added. “The coach is amazing and he’ll help me a lot. My game will just get better and better, and that’s what I want.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.