By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
Wednesday afternoon was a dream come true for Nanih Waiya senior softball standout Ryan Holdiness.
After committing to the University of Central Arkansas two years ago, she officially signed with the school in front of her friends and family at Nanih Waiya High School, becoming the first Lady Warrior to sign with an NCAA Division I program straight out of high school since Gail Eaves inked to play basketball with Ole Miss in 1989.
“I am excited,” Holdiness said. “I have been committed to them a while. They had heard about me and I eventually went up there to visit and to a softball camp and that’s where they first offered me a scholarship. I really like the campus and the coaches.”
UCA is located in Conway, Ark., which is about 30 miles north of Little Rock and is a tad more than five hours away from Winston County no matter which route you choose.
“I think I’m going to like it,” she said. “They have a good program and it seems like a good fit.”
Besides, a year from when she steps onto campus at UCA she will have a familiar face once again by her side. Ryan’s younger sister Reagan has also committed to play softball and in a year she will be able to sign a scholarship herself.
“ I think it’s going to be good to have her up there with me,” Ryan Holdiness said. “We’ve played together so long.”
While Holdiness’ softball skills are obvious, NW slow-pitch coach Courtnee Graham says her senior star’s attributes run much deeper than that.
“She is a natural leader,” Graham said. “She doesn’t lead by the things she says, she leads by example. She is always willing to do what is necessary to help the team win.”
During the recently completed slow-pitch season the Lady Warriors needed Holdiness to move from shortstop to pitcher and she did it without hesitation. “Where you need her, that’s what she’s willing to do,” Graham said. “She is just a great athlete period.”
While Holdiness is excited about her college softball career being on the horizon she also knows there is a little business to be taken care off, as the Nanih Waiya Lady Warriors look to defend their MHSAA Class 1A Fast-Pitch State championship this spring.
“I am really excited about the fast-pitch season and looking forward to it,” she said. “I know it will be a little sad closer to the end, but right now I’m just happy to be able to go out there and play with my friends and teammates again.”
Holdiness pitches for the fast-pitch team, but says she will likely play catcher or possibly third on the next level.
“I’m not a college pitcher,” she said. “They were surprised at how many positions I can play, so they may look at moving me around a little bit.”
The one thing UCA will definitely want in the line-up is Holdiness’ bat.
She hit .512 as a freshman for Nanih Waiya, .543 as a sophomore and .407 last season and has driven in 131 runs in her four-year career that began has an eighth grader. She has also belted 17 homers, 18 triples and 30 doubles, while scoring 145 runs.
If you add her RBIs and runs scored and subtract her home runs, it reveals that Holdiness has produced a whopping 259 runs during her career.
Her best two pitching seasons came as a sophomore and a junior. Last year she was 13-3 with a 2.04 ERA and struck out 112 batters in 113 innings pitched, while as a sophomore she was 14-8 with a 2.80 ERA and fanned 104 hitters in 122.1 innings.