Kettle Run senior Debbie Stuart signs for scholarship from Shepherd softball team
© Virginia News GroupEditor's note: This story originally appeared Nov. 18
Kettle Run senior Debbie Stuart hit a home run Sunday for her Virginia Unity travel softball team.
Afterward, she sent a text with a performance update to the Shepherd University coach who has recruited her for more than a year, Danielle Easton.
Easton’s response: “She was like, ‘Congratulations, but save some of those home runs for Shepherd,” Stuart said.
Stuart did the next best thing Monday. She signed a national letter of intent to play for the Rams next year, so at least Easton can officially earmark some of Stuart’s future home runs.
“This was a dream that I always wanted since I was 5 or 6 years old, as soon as I had a ball in my hand,” Stuart said. “To get a scholarship to my favorite school. Dream come true.”
Stuart signed for the partial softball scholarship on stage in Kettle Run’s auditorium during a ceremony that also featured a trio of other Cougars who committed to college sports programs. Brenton Doyle signed with the Virginia Military Institute baseball team while Carissa Brizzi signed with the University of Connecticut softball team and Laura O’Toole signed with the Longwood University lacrosse team.
“It’s a huge deal,” Stuart said of signing. “I’ve been nervous for this night … but as soon as I stepped up there with my family and my coaches it was just fine.”
Her family, in fact, played a large role in Stuart’s decision to choose Shepherd. The NCAA Division II college in Shepherdstown, W.Va. is only about 60 miles north of the Stuart family’s Warrenton home.
“The main reason was definitely location,” Stuart said. “Being able to have my parents watch me almost every game.
“Family’s the most important thing in the world,” she said. “They’ve been so supportive of me.”
Easton began recruiting her when Stuart was a sophomore playing on a Fauquier Freeze travel team.
“She gave a lot of interest, and that’s what really caught my eye,” Stuart said. “I was like, ‘OK, maybe I should go look at this school.
“Coach Easton is very down to earth,” Stuart said, “and she’s really easy to talk to.”
A couple campus visits essentially sealed Stuart’s decision to commit to Shepherd.
“My overnight [visit] was perfect,” she said. “As soon as I stepped on campus it felt like my home. I loved everything about it. The girls were amazing. … The program is awesome.”
Lynchburg, Virginia Wesleyan and Radford also showed interest in Stuart, but she committed to the Rams in July.
Serendipitously, Stuart’s friend and former Kettle Run teammate, Kaitlin Munda, will also play for the Rams after transferring from Francis Marion University (Florence, S.C.).
“It’s awesome,” Stuart said. “We hadn’t talked about it and she ended up there also. It’s actually perfect.”
Fauquier High graduate Rachael Taylor has also joined the Rams’ roster.
Stuart will likely play third base for Shepherd, but she could also see time at her high school position of shortstop, she said.
Off the field, she’s considering a major in criminal justice or business.
“I’m going to school for an education,” Stuart said. “Softball’s just a bonus.
“The class size was perfect,” she said of Shepherd. “It was medium size – 15 to 20 students. That’s what I want.”
A versatile infielder, and a batter who hits for power, average and anything in between, Stuart will also bring a great nickname to Shepherdstown. Her Virginia Unity teammates recently began calling her "Debron," a la NBA superstar LeBron James.
After the girls hit balls during warm-ups, they return them to a bucket with jump-shot-like tosses.
“I make like every one,” Stuart said of the nickname's genesis.
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Brenton Doyle signing
Team: Virginia Military Institute baseball.
Potential major: Business.
Reasoning: “It’s a great coaching staff. They made me feel at home.”
Resume: Class 3A all-state outfielder ranks second on Cougars’ career batting average list with a .397.
Coach Ty Thorpe: “He’s been one of the best players in our program’s history. … He has all the tools to do it, and the sky’s the limit for this young man."
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Carissa Brizzi signing
Team: University of Connecticut softball.
Potential major: Journalism. “I want to be a sports broadcaster.”
Reasoning: “I never thought I would go to school 8-10 hours away, but it is definitely a second home. When I went on my visit, the girls were just so fun to be with. I’m real excited to see what our program’s going to do.”
Resume: Made first team all-Conference 27 team as a utility infielder who hit .349 with 16 RBIs and a team-high 21 runs.
Father Pat Brizzi: “It’s a really big day for our family. She’s done what I think every parent wishes their kid would do, and that’s try to be the best that they can be.”
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Laura O’Toole signing
Team: Longwood University lacrosse.
Potential major: Business/marketing.
Reaction: “Knowing I have somewhere to go and not have to worry about who is going to accept me, worry about the application process … it is a relief.”
Resume: First-team all-Evergreen Conference goalie.
Coach Joan DeGoosh: “It takes some guts. … It’s an intense position. … Laura has done a great job. … It’s been wonderful to watch her grow.”