Sep. 26—Since the first time she stepped onto a diamond, swung a bat to hit a ball off a tee and learned the game, Lauren Stalica has loved the game of softball.
In those early days, she built her foundation for the future and stoked her passion to someday realize her dream of playing in college.
On Sunday, after a visit to the Philadelphia campus, the highly recruited prospect who led Abington Heights to a run in the PIAA playoffs last spring found where she wants to study and continue playing and made a verbal commitment to Saint Joseph's University, an NCAA program that competes in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
"It was a very hard decision," the junior said. "I had heard from about 12 schools and started to take visits last week. On Friday, I was at St. Joe's, and I fell in love with the school, the coaches, and the program. I had other visits set up, but St. Joe's is where I want to be. It has a great business program, and coming out of that school with a degree in business will be very good. I just knew it was a great fit for me."
In her earliest years playing softball, Stalica became extremely dedicated. She played in the Abington Youth Softball League but really honed her skills in travel softball, which also provided her opportunities to showcase her talents to college coaches. She has played for the Impact Panthers, the Strikers and now is a member of the Newtown Rock out of Philadelphia.
Throughout her development, Stalica has also been guided and inspired by her cousins, Jenna Bradley, a Division I softball pitcher at the University of Massachusetts, and Nick Bradley, who has already committed to playing baseball at Auburn University.
Last season, as a sophomore, the hard-throwing lefty yielded one earned run in four of five postseason starts as the team won the District 2 Class 5A championship and made it to the state semifinals. She batted .444 with seven home runs, six doubles and 34 RBIs and earned a spot on the Times-Tribune All-Region team.
Those impressive numbers, combined with her travel ball experience, made her a college prospect.
"Playing travel ball has always given me hope to one day play in college," Stalica said. "Then, last year, the postseason was really incredible, and I hope we can get back there again. I grew up with Jenna by my side, always coaching me. Now I am doing it.
"So, for a little girl who had a dream of playing Division I softball in college, it's all coming true with hard work."
With her college decision made and a quick consultation with her future coach, Erin Brooks, Stalica is laser-focused. She will continue to sharpen her game while also working on building her strength in preparation for her spring season with the Lady Comets and another competitive season with her travel team.
"I am at NEPA Fit Club with the trainers," Stalica said. "I have to elevate my game, work in the weight room and continue to get stronger."
Saint Joseph's finished last season with a 20-28 overall record and 10-14 in the conference, records highlighted by a five-game winning streak to finish. In 2021, the team won its first Atlantic 10 North title and hosted the conference championship for the first time in program history.
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