This is a news release from JCJC athletics
ELLISVILLE – Another Jones County Junior College softball standout is headed to the University of Southern Mississippi.
Lauren Holifield, the 2015 NJCAA Division II Player of the Year, signed with the Lady Eagles on Thursday. She joins her JCJC teammate and 2014 NJCAA Division II Player of the Year – Tori Dew – in Hattiesburg. Bailey Stokes, who was a freshman at JCJC in 2014, played her sophomore year with the Lady Eagles this past season.
Holifield is excited to join second-year head coach Wendy Hogue's Southern Miss program.
"It means a lot because I like this area and my family is from here," Holifield said. "I also get to play with two of my former teammates. I'm hoping us three together can help them out some since we had so much success at Jones."
Holifield, a shortstop, posted some eye-popping numbers for the 41-6 Lady Bobcats.
She won the MACJC "Triple Crown" with a .503 batting average, 28 home runs and 82 RBIs. She led the nation in home runs and in slugging percentage at 1.174 and led the Lady Bobcats in doubles with 20.
She hopes to have those types of numbers with the Lady Eagles.
"I hope it's the same as it was this year, but you can't really know for sure," Holifield said. "I am going to work as hard as I did here and hope I can get the same results or better. I'm hoping I can be a big hitter in the lineup and be that clutch hitter they need."
JCJC head coach Chris Robinson said the Lady Eagles would be getting a solid addition to their lineup.
"I remember her first at-bat of the year, she hits out of the park and it carried on from there," he said of Holifield's game vs. Marion Military Institute (Alabama) on Feb. 9. "She had a phenomenal year. She was great defensively, offensively and leadership-wise. She was the total package this year."
Robinson noted that senior colleges could go the junior college route to boost their program quickly.
"When you are trying to turn around a program like Coach Hogue is at Southern Miss, you want to hit the junior college system pretty good," he said. "She has told us that she is very happy to get our players.
"We are pleased that they are only going 20 minutes down the road so our staff and our players can go watch them. I tell you, Southern Miss will have a full house just from the Jones Junior College softball team coming to watch them."
Holifield brings all kinds of accolades to the table.
She was recently named a recipient of the NJCAA Marucci Elite Hitting Award and was named an NJCAA Division II first-team All-American. Earlier, she was named the MACJC Player of the Year and All-Region 23. At the JCJC Spring Athletic Banquet, she was named the JCJC Female Presidential Scholar-Athlete Award winner for having a 4.0 GPA.
Holifield, along with Dew, has been named as one of 16 players to represent all divisions of the NJCAA in the 21st annual Canadian Open Fastpitch International Competition July 3-13 in Surrey, British Columbia.
But Holifield said just being a part of the Lady Bobcat program was an honor.
"Winning state last year was a great feeling with everybody, but there are so many good experiences," she said. "Just being in the dugout and just being up all of the time with my team was fun."
Robinson added that not only are Holifield, Dew and Stokes going to be a part of the Southern Miss program, but another Lady Bobcat – Brittany Seale – has committed to the University of Memphis.
"We are so very proud of Lauren and the kids in this class to be able to move," he said. "Over half of the kids in our class have moved on to a four-year program with four of them going to Division I schools. It's great for our state as far as the junior college system goes. We are looking forward to some great things out of Lauren, Tori, Bailey and Brittany."