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STEPHANIE HOUSER of SS. John and Paul, shown firing a pitch during the Star Beacon Senior Classic on Sunday at the JAGS Complex, is headed to Mount Union College.



By BOB ETTINGER

For the Star Beacon

At one point during her high school career, SS. John and Paul senior Stephanie Houser wondered whether she shouldn't just give up softball and concentrate on her studies while in college.

She decided against hanging up her spikes and instead will suit up for Mount Union College, where she will further her education starting next fall.

"For a while, I wondered if it wasn't more important to study in college," Houser said. "I considered losing one dream to concentrate on academics. Softball is something that will always be a part of me and I didn't want to give that up."

The choice to go to Mount Union was seemingly made before Houser even made an official visit there.

"Were coming home from a softball tournament and wanted to drive through just so I could get the feel of (the different schools)," Houser said. "We drove through Walsh University and I kind of liked it. We went through Malone College and I didn't really like that one. It wasn't me. Then we drove through Mount Union and I fell in love with it."

The only other place she considered seriously was Tiffin University.

"They're a Division II school and offered me (scholarship) money to play softball," Houser said. "They're pretty far away and I didn't feel it was the right choice. It's also a little too far from home."

Despite deciding to play collegiate softball, Houser, the daughter of Mike and Cheri Houser, will concentrate more on her grade-point average than her batting average.

"My goal is to have a GPA above 3.7," Houser said. "That's my first goal. I don't plan to start or anything, there are a lot more experienced softball players than I am. My second goal is to learn more of the game and work hard in the offseason."

Houser will major in business marketing with a double minor in business management and Spanish. She isn't entirely certain where those programs will take her.

"I want to focus on getting a good internship," Houser said. "I'll concentrate hard on my studies in order to do that. I want to work for whoever I intern with. I just want to be able to show them I'll be a good employee."

On the field, the long-time pitcher will move off the mound into the field.

"I'm looking to play second base, or somewhere on the infield," Houser said. "They might play me in the outfield. After my shoulder surgery, pitching has been hard on my arm. Playing the infield is an opportunity to maybe play more. In college, if you're pitching, you don't get to play all the time. I want to be constantly on the field. I don't want to sit on the bench."

The position switch will not be all good for Houser, however, because she still harbors a love for being on the mound.

"I'll miss it a lot," Houser said. "I love pitching. Pitching's been a part of me since I was 8 years old. Maybe they'll let me pitch some in relief."

Houser will use her summer vacation to get to know her new teammates.

"I'll be playing at Akron Firestone's stadium all summer in a college-like league," Houser said. "I'll be playing the same girls that will be on the team in the fall (when school starts). We'll be playing college teams. I'll be able to get to know the girls before school starts in the fall."

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.

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