Lee County catcher Natalie Shiver, front row, center, signs on the dotted line Tuesday with Mercer University in Macon as her mother, Missy, front row, left, and father, Mike, front row, right, look on. Shiver was also joined by, back row, from right, head softball coach Lynn Avery, and assistant coaches Dwayne Suggs and Kyle Keen. (john firstname.lastname@example.org)
LEESBURG -- Natalie Shiver doesn't just want to be good at everything she does -- she wants to be the best.
The Lee County senior owns a 4.0 GPA (it's actually 4.315 when you weigh it) while taking AP classes and has been a staple behind the plate the last four years for the Lady Trojans.
On Tuesday, Lee County's star catcher officially signed with Mercer University, where she will major in business and could have an immediate impact on the softball team.
"I think she will be a good (college player)," Lee County coach Lynn Avery said. "She will thrive on this. ... I honestly expect her to start. If she doesn't start at the beginning, I feel confident she will start by the end of the year."
Shiver was Avery's only senior this season, and the Lady Trojans coach said she will be hard to replace.
"We won't realize how much she brought to the team until next year," Avery said of the four-year starter who led the team in nearly every offensive category as a senior.
"We will get another catcher, but it will be hard to replace Natalie and all she brings to the field. She is so smart behind the plate. She does the little things, like knowing what pitches (that) batters hit. A lot of the times she called pitches for us."
In 87 at-bats, Shiver had a batting average of .483 with 22 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. As a catcher, she threw out 11 runners and didn't make an error all season. But her future on the softball field -- no matter how bright it may be -- wasn't the deciding factor in her collegiate decision.
"It's a really good academic school, and that's a really big deal to me," said Shiver, who added Tuesday that she knows exactly what her dream job is. "I love the Atlanta Braves, and I think I want to go work in their front office and eventually work my way up to be Vice President of Operations."
Those are some big plans, but Avery will be the first to tell you that Shiver's work ethic is unrivaled.
"She has been a joy to coach," Avery said. "She is a work horse and loves the game. She eats, sleeps and breathes it and is every coach's dream. She will be a success in life -- in whatever she chooses to do."
However, Shiver has taken her licks behind the plate, where she has played since walking onto the middle school team as a sixth grader. On Tuesday, she talked about a game-ending play at the plate in a tournament in Brunswick.
"I got plowed into. The girl came into me like this," Shiver said as she extended her arms. "It was actually illegal, and it was the last play of the game. I held onto the ball, and the umpire called her out. But the umpire said that if I would have dropped the ball, she would have been out anyway."
She busted her lip on the play, which sent both players sprawling to the ground.
"Then I got up and tagged her again," she said with a smile.