Several softball players at Southwest Mississippi Community College have come and gone, with many getting the chance to continue their careers at a four-year school. However, it is rare to have three go to the same program in the same year once their time in Summit is done.
But that is happening this year as utility player Lana Moak, third baseman Ryleigh McManus and pitcher Allie Hunt all made their commitments to play with the Belhaven Blazers.
For Moak, who spent her freshman year playing for William Carey before spending a year at Southwest, the opportunity is more than just getting the chance to play about an hour’s drive from her hometown of Ruth. It’s also the intrigue of playing again with McManus and Hunt.
“It is not a long drive from home for me. I am a homebody,” she said. “When I knew that Allie and Ryleigh were also going there, I knew that it was going to be a great fit for me.”
The level of comfort that she felt when she visited Belhaven’s campus also helped her make her decision.
“I just knew when I stepped on campus that this was the place for me,” she said. “It felt like home.”
Moak is listed as a utility player and she is open to playing wherever Belhaven Coach Kevin Griffin wants her to play.
McManus who was a starter at third base for the Bears during the last two years is also thankful to get the chance to play at Belhaven.
Her relationship with the Blazers dates back to when she was in high school at The Silliman Institute in her hometown of Clinton, La.
“Before I even came to Southwest, they offered me to play there,” she said. “I decided that it would be better if I started at junior college. I went on Belhaven’s campus a few times already and I got to go before coronavirus.”
She enjoyed her two years in Summit, where her game developed greatly.
“I honestly didn’t think that it was going to be much harder than it was in high school,” she said. “I learned so much about softball and the game from Southwest and I learned about work ethic and commitment and time management. I’m glad that I started at Southwest before I went to a big four-year school.”
Like McManus, Hunt also spent the last two years with the Bears improving her game. The Bossier City, La., native has shined on the mound, improving from a relief to starting pitcher. And while she was known for her great play on the field, she made just as big of an impact off the field as a leader.
“I’m going to major in education,” she said. “I want to be a health teacher and coach softball at the high school level.”
Her experiences both on and off the field at Southwest are ones that Hunt is thankful for in helping her get ready to go to a four-year school.
And she praised her teammates with helping to welcome her to a new location in a new state.
“I know at Southwest being far from home at first it was hard at first,” she said. “But it felt like home there and I went through a lot in my freshman year and they (teammates) were always there for me.”
SMCC coach Shea Johnson is very happy to see McManus, Hunt and Moak move on to Belhaven adding that they have left an impact with the younger girls in his program.
“I think that they did a good job,” he said. “Those girls left and impact and they taught a bunch of great young freshmen and the camaraderie that they have is tremendous. I think that they are going to be encouragers.”
The Belhaven trio is just part of an SMCC softball team this season that finished with a 3.74 GPA as a team with 11 girls holding a 4.0.