By Mike Monahan

Charleston’s Dee Campbell and Windsor’s Carson Cole are among seven Lake Land players headed to play softball at four-year colleges.

“It’s every little softball player’s dream (to play at the Division I level), and mine is coming true,” said Cole, who will play for Eastern Illinois next season . “I’m especially excited because I help coach some of the younger girls in my community, and I hope I can show them to keep working hard.”

Cole played for Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg softball, which included a Class 1A state title in 2017. 

Coles, who hit .369 last season, will be joined at EIU by Rachel Kaufman and Marama Makea after having helped Lake Land go 52-10 and win the Great Rivers Athletic Conference under Lakers coach Nic Nelson. 

Campbell, meanwhile, will play for Concordia University-Ann Arbor.

The others advancing:

• Kyrsten Darrough (University of Alabama Birmingham)

• Taylor Warne (Indiana Purdue University Fort Wayne)

• Harley Mason (Taylor University)

Campbellm who saw limited action because of injury, went 2-for-2 in four games and went 1-0 on the mound.

“I just need to work on getting back into the swing of things,” said Campbell.  “My leg injury put me out for a long time and I have run into some setbacks due to that. Right now I am just trying to improve my strength and skills and get them back to where they were before my injury.”

Campbell had also visited Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, West Virginia, before choosing Taylor.

“I really liked their atmosphere, both on campus and in the softball program,” Campbell said. “They have a very competitive softball program, which I enjoy very much. Everyone on campus was so helpful in helping me learn more about their campus and my academic program. Also, their campus, especially their chapel, is absolutely beautiful.”

Taylor is an NAIA school of 2,445 students located in Upland, Ind., about an 80-minute drive northeast of Indianapolis, that went 43-18 last year for third-year coach Hailey Cavanagh. Taylor lost six players from last season’s third-place conference squad. 

“Dee comes from a high caliber junior college who historically is one of the best in the area,” said Cavanagh. “We know she’s been coached well and trained well, and excited for her to bring her winning experiences here to CUAA to continue growing our program closer to a championship.” 

Campbell  plans to study forensic chemistry.

Here are profiles of the other players advancing.

Carson Cole

Carson Cole led Lake Land in runs scored with 63 and was tops in stolen bases with 25. 

I wouldn’t be half the person or softball player I am today without the help of my family and all my coaches along the way,” said Cole. “I will be forever grateful for everyone who has helped me in my journey.”

Cole said she talked to a few coaches, but did not visit anywhere else besides EIU. She also knows she has to improve her game. “I need to work on everything. I know I can get better and that is so exciting to me. My main goal is to become overall stronger and definitely get faster.”

Cole said having both Kaufman and Makea should make the transition to a university easier.

“I would definitely be more nervous if I didn’t already have my two best friends by my side,” Cole said. “Plus, we have another teammate that is already at EIU (Katie Nicholson) so that’s exciting as well.”

Cole, an NJCAA Division I Academic All-American, plans to major in marketing. 

Rachel Kaufman

Kaufman, a pitcher, led Lake Land in numerous categories, including a 26-7 record and a 2.27 earned run average. She had 218 strikeouts in 172 1/3 innings and 23 walks, which helped her to earn NJCAA Division I All-American and Region 24 Player of the Year honors.

“I will need to continue to work on the movement and spin of all my pitches,” said Kaufman. “A change up will be necessary at this level of play, so I will need to continue working on that as well as my confidence in throwing it.”

Kaufman, the Great Rivers Athletic Conference Player of the Year, said she wanted to play for a winning, competitive program. “I know this will be a place where I will continue to learn and grow in not only my physical capabilities as a softball player,” Kaufman said, “but mentally as well.”

Kaufman plans to major in marketing. 

As for having Cole and Makea also going to EIU Kaufman said, “Having teammates go with me is pretty awesome.”

“At Lake Land, I had set multiple goals, and to go on and earn a scholarship to play at the Division I level was one of them,” said Kaufman.  

Marama Makea

A left-handed batter, the New Zealander finished second on the team in batting average at .413. 

Makea was on the All-Region 24 team, the All-Region 24 Tournament Team and made the all-Great Rivers Athletic Conference team. 

Kyrsten Darrough

The shortstop and Flora graduate earned NJCAA Division all-Region 24 second team honors and was also an Academic All-American. 

UAB, with an enrollment of 22,500, went 31-19 overall and 15-5 in the Conference USA and only lost two players from that team that placed second in the West division. 

Besides hitting. 290, Darrough had the dubious distinction of leading the team in hit by pitches with 20. 

Taylor Warne

Warne of Aurora hit .341 for Lake Land last season. IPFW will be in its fourth year of existence after its predecessor, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne formally split into two separate institutions. The Mastodons were 12-27 overall and 11-24 in the Horizon Conference, good for eighth place. 

Harley Mason

Heart problems limited Mason, an infielder and Division I All-American, to six games last season. 

“I feel like I have a lot to work on, in many areas of my life,” said Mason “When it comes to softball, my biggest challenge will be getting my offense back up and going and continuing to get my body back into shape after suffering with a heart issue.”

Mason had a couple of other schools she was going to look at, but decided not to visit them after she saw Taylor. 

“I knew it was meant to be,” said Mason. “What I love about Taylor is that they are a school and community centered on Jesus. They encourage growth and provide all the tools necessary for it. I really love coach (Erin) Bellinger and the way she has also centered the softball program around the same values, with a Christ first, team second, me three type of mindset. The team bond is very important there which is important to me.”

Taylor is a NAIA school of 2,445 students located in Upland, Ind.  that competes in the Crossroads League and went 43-18 last year, including 24-12 in the conference good for fourth place.Ballinger, will be in her fourth season.

“To be able to continue playing softball means that I will continue being a part of a team and a family,” said Mason. “I will have a lot of sisters and some great coaches by my side building life-long memories and friendships. It’s really about having that support system and a place to belong.”

Mason plans to study elementary education and Christian ministries.