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Softball players who are harboring Division I dreams are getting younger and younger.

Just look at Chambersburg's Caeley Etter, who committed to Mount Saint Mary's after her sophomore year even started.

"I have one pitching coach that always explains it like the feeling of being the last kid picked in a kickball game on the playground," Trojan pitcher Sam Bender said. "It took some time for me, but I finally found the school I was looking for. I kept hanging on to that hope, and it worked really well for me."

Bender is one of two Chambersburg pitchers who have recently committed to Division I programs. Bender is headed to Iona, in New Rochelle, N.Y., and Laken Myers has made a verbal commitment to Gardner-Webb, a Division I program in Boiling Springs, N.C.

Both girls just finished their junior years, but neither will actually sign a letter of intent until November.

"Actually, junior year is kind of late for softball because the big Division I's get the players when they are sophomores, or even freshmen," Myers said. "But I really wanted to wait it out for my perfect school. When Gardner-Webb called me, I went down there, and I knew it was what I wanted. I'm excited to play there."

Chambersburg coach Chris Skultety said, "The thing about these girls is they have great attitudes and great grades. College don't want to have eligibility issues because of grades, and (Sam and Laken) don't have that. They're definitely both hard workers."

Although both Trojans have made their future plans, that doesn't mean there's not work to be done. Both girls are planning to continue their pitching careers. Myers said a solid college pitcher can hit 65 mph, and she was topping out around 61 this season.

"I just need to keep working hard on my mental game," Myers said. "I also need to focus on my spins and how to use them against certain batters, and I need to increase my speed by a couple miles per hour."

Bender said, "I want to come out faster and stronger next year. With my hitting, I need to be a little bit more consistent. I know I have it there; it's just refining the little mechanical things."

With Myers and Bender's verbal commitments, that makes three of Chambersburg's nine returning starters headed off to Division I programs.

"I think it's huge because a lot of underclassmen look up to as people to follow," Bender said. "They can see that their goals are achieve, because we aren't any different from them. It just takes a lot of practice and hard work, and I think they know that."

ARTZ HEADS TO DIV. I SCHOOL:  Jake Artz entered his post-graduate year at Mercersburg Academy with his college plans already set in stone. Artz, a Central Dauphin graduate, will continue his baseball career at Saint Joseph’s University.

“He has the toughness to play at any college program,” Mercersburg coach John Lowery said. “He plays defense above average, and this year he continued to get stronger. He faced several guys moving on to play at Division I schools, and those good arms got him prepared for next year at that level.”

Artz averaged .353 for the Blue Storm this season and led the team in stolen bases with 21.

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