After looking forward to this for several years, what was a few more months to Kaitlyn Finneran?
The standout shortstop for the Morrison Fillies knew from the time she was 8 years old she wanted to play Division I softball. She's known for nearly as long that Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, was a place that she'd love to attend college.
On Friday, Finneran put her two longtime wishes together. After making a verbal commitment to the Bulldogs last February, the Morrison senior officially signed her name on the dotted line of a National Letter of Intent in a ceremony in the school auditorium.
"It was really just a dream come true to sign my name on that line," Finneran said Monday evening. "Ever since watching Margo Pruis get a scholarship to play softball when I was 8, and then watching my sister Erin play 2 years of D-I ball, I knew I'd work as hard as I could to make it happen for me."
Drake "has always been on the radar" for Finneran. Not only has she been one of the best offensive and defensive players in the area the past three seasons, she's also No. 1 in her class academically and has designs on a career in medicine.
"I always kept academics right next to my No. 1 priority of playing D-I softball," Finneran said. "Drake has been on my list since I was young, and once I got feedback from coach [Rich] Calvert, everything fell into place."
She has known of the Drake softball program since not long after watching Pruis sign with Wichita State in 2003. The coach of her 12U and 14U ASA summer teams, Ted Heffelfinger, is good friends with Calvert.
On the flip side, Calvert has long known about Finneran – even if Finneran didn't know it. He first saw her play at an exposure tournament in St. Louis in the fall of 2010 without approaching her, then made his pitch when she attended a Drake softball camp in December 2012.
After spending 1-on-1 time with the players during camp, Calvert called Finneran into his office before she left Des Moines and asked when she could return for a campus visit.
"It really took me by surprise, honestly," Finneran said. "I never knew he had watched me play, and then he asked me before we left camp when I could make my visit."
The choice was an easy one for Finneran, who was also strongly considering Northern Iowa and Illinois State. She made an unofficial visit in February, which is when Calvert made the official offer for a full-ride scholarship. She returned for her official campus visit this past September, and knew then that the verbal commitment she made after her unofficial visit was the right decision.
"The girls on the team just accepted me with open arms, and we went to a barbecue at Coach Calvert's house and met his kids, and it was just a really good home feeling," Finneran said. "That really solidified it for me."
She got further confirmation after a meeting with Calvert.
"The first thing he said to me was he really admired my leadership skills, which he saw at the exposure tournament and his camp, with girls I didn't even know," said Finneran, who has been in the top four of every major offensive category for the Fillies the past 3 years and hit the three-run homer to send them to the 2A state title in 2011. "He said he expects me to come right in as a freshman and be a great leader on the team – and that's a role I love to take on.
"He also said he likes my versatility, and showed me a lineup card for the season I get there with a big circle around shortstop and said he's looking for me to fill that spot. I feel fortunate to be playing D-I ball, but if I could play that position and help the team, that's even better."
Finneran plans to study biology with a route toward pre-med, and has already met with some of her professors, who are "very committed to making sure I'm on the right track to go to med school," Finneran said. "That also made me realize this was the right decision."
Finneran is the fifth Morrison Filly to sign with a Division I school right out of high school, joining Pruis, Monica Wright (Northern Iowa, then Indiana) and the Vock sisters, Michaele and Abby (Missouri). She will also be the second Finneran sister to play D-I softball, as Erin played 2 years at Tennessee State after a successful stint at Chipola junior college in Florida.
Sports: Softball (4 years varsity), basketball (1 year varsity)
Stat pack: Led Fillies in batting average (.495), on-base percentage (.585) and slugging percentage (.691) in 2012, with 35 runs, 32 RBIs and 15 extra-base hits. … Batted .394 with 31 runs, 27 RBIs, 12 extra-base hits in 2011, including 3-run homer to win 2A state title game. … Hit .427 with 35 runs, 29 RBIs, 14 extra-base hits in 2010.
FYI: Accepted full-ride scholarship to play softball at Drake University, where she will major in biology on a route to pre-med. … Is the fifth Morrison softball player to sign with a Division I college right out of high school. … Older sister, Erin, played 2 years of D-I softball at Tennessee State (2006-07).