12/02/08 — Darden picks Mount Olive

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Darden picks Mount Olive

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on December 2, 2008 1:47 PM

DUDLEY -- Southern Wayne High School softball standout Lauren Darden will not have to worry about the pressures that go along with collegiate recruiting as she prepares for her senior season in the pitcher's circle.

The talented hurler has signed a national letter of intent with Mount Olive College.

"I just sat down and weighed the pro's and con's of playing at Mount Olive," said Darden. "I finally realized that I had to make the decision that was best for me, and Mount Olive felt like the right way to go."

Darden noted that her decision was about more than softball.

"I really like the small school atmosphere and the fact it's pretty close to home," she said. "The coaching staff there has been great and I am looking forward to getting started."

The 2008 News-Argus pitcher of the year, Darden racked up an astounding 251 strikeouts in 164 innings last season. She also maintained a miniscule 1.02 earned run average.

Thanks in part to Darden's domination, Southern Wayne finished with a 21-6 record and earned a share of the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season title.

Darden claimed two wins in the NCSSA playoffs before the Saints eventually bowed out againt South Central in the third round.

Despite all of that success, the high school senior is continually looking for ways to improve her game.

"It will be great to have Lauren around this year, with no pressure," said second-year Saints head coach Michael Wiggs. "Coach (Jaime) Kylis-Higginbotham called and sent me a program that she uses with her pitchers at the college level, so I am going to help Lauren get started on that before the season."

For Wiggs, a former Mount Olive baseball standout, Darden is the second player to sign with the Trojans from the Saints' program in the past six months. Current MOC freshman infielder Alyssa Bradshaw graduated from Southern Wayne a year ago.

"I don't really think I had much influence on Lauren's decision, but I do think that Mount Olive is a good fit for her," said Wiggs. "The coaching staff there does a great job with pitchers and they are continuing to improve every year within their conference."

Darden admitted that she took into account the familiarity she has with some of the current Trojans when making her college choice.

"It's nice to go somewhere with people that you know," she said. "That familiarity will make the transition from high school to college much easier."

Mount Olive enjoyed a 29-21 campaign last season. They finished in third place in the regular season standings and were the runner-up in the Conference Carolinas tournament.

Off the softball diamond, Darden plans on continuing her education in either forensic science or psychology.