Gunter senior heads for N.Y.

GUNTER — Once she stepped into the circle for the Lady Tigers, the program immediately began a contender. Now Katlyn Holmes is hoping to have a similar impact in college.

“I’m expecting to go to Niagara making history. Like here at Gunter. History started building up,” Holmes said. “It was definitely a factor — going in and being able to help change a program.”

The opportunity will start next spring as Holmes signed her national letter of intent to play softball for Niagara University on Wednesday morning.

She chose the Lady Purple Eagles over Seton Hall, Rutgers and Southeastern Louisiana as well as programs at the Division II, JUCO and NAIA levels.

“I had a lot of options. I didn’t know which route I was going to go,” Holmes said. “I wanted to play Division I. That was always the goal.”

Gunter had never made the playoffs before Holmes’ arrival but reached the third round in 2010. After losing in the area round a year later, the Lady Tigers made it to the region semifinals this past spring before losing to eventual state champion Crawford and Gunter returns seven starters this season.

“I knew I was going to have to prove myself to the older girls and I’ll have to do that at Niagara,” Holmes said. “They said I could pitch, hit and play the field if I work hard enough. And that won’t be a problem.”

Holmes is coming off a superb junior season in which she went 28-5 with a 0.89 earned run average and 300 strikeouts in 196 innings. She also hit .527 with five home runs and 48 RBI and was named District 11-2A MVP, all-state by the Texas Girls Coaches Association, second-team all-state by the Texas Writers Association and MaxPreps small-school All-American.

During her sophomore season she was 26-6 with a 0.93 ERA and 274 strikeouts while hitting .429 to earn honorable mention all-state honors. As a freshman she had a 1.13 ERA with 231 strikeouts and hit .432 with 13 doubles and 30 RBI. She will graduate as Gunter’s career leader in every pitching category.

Niagara, a Division I program under the direction of new head coach Ellie Chan, is located right on the U.S.-Canadian border in upstate New York and competes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

“The coach absolutely fell in love with my video and wanted to see if I was interested. What the heck’s Niagara? So I did some research and I thought it would be an interesting experience,” Holmes said. “I was actually looking to get away for college. I wanted a new experience, something I would remember. I want it to be an adventure.”

The Lady Purple Eagles went 15-30 this past season and 7-9 in MAAC play.

Niagara has four pitchers on the roster heading into the 2013 season and three of them are juniors. The other is a freshman and would be Holmes’ main competition in 2015 to be the Lady Purple Eagles starter.