After a fine three-year varsity softball career at Girard, Nikki Mazzella is moving on to college and will compete at Mount Union.
Mazzella chose the Purple Raiders over Ashland and Tiffin and will major in special education.
"I liked it a lot better than the other two," she said of her choice.
Girard coach Renny Paolone said Mazzella was among the best players he's coached in his 10 seasons with the Indians.
"I don't even know what word to use," he said. "She was the penultimate softball player. She worked 24/7; she lived it and breathed it. She was a team leader and lived by example. Anything you would ask her to do she would do it. There are so many good things to say about her, I don't know where to begin."
In her senior season, Mazzella batted .505 with three home runs, 46 RBIs and 25 runs scored. She struck out only twice as Girard's cleanup hitter.
"She played third base impeccably every game," Paolone said her of defensive abilities. "She batted fourth all year long."
Girard ended the season 22-7 with an extra-inning loss to East Palestine in a Division III district final.
Both Mazzella and Paolone named Girard's games against two-time Division III state tournament winner Champion as the Indians' biggest.
"It was a big rivalry for us even though we lost," Mazzella said. "It was a good game, they only beat us by one run."
"We lost to Champion 1-0 for the (All-American Conference) championship," Paolone said. "It was the third year in a row we lost to Champion by one run. The last three years they were 10-0 in the league and we were 8-2. The other scores were 4-3 three years ago and 3-2 two years ago. If we could beat them, we would have been league co-champs three years in a row. (Champion pitcher) Lindsay Swipas beat us all three times."
Paolone said he has no doubts Mazzella will excel at the next level.
"Nikki is going to do fine. I wouldn't be surprised if she started as a freshman," he said. "If she works as hard like she did for me I wouldn't be surprised if she became an All-American. She's always in the batting cage, and two days a week she's in the weight room. Her work ethic is incomparable."
Mazzella added she's excited about the future of the Mount Union softball program.
"They've been really decent for years," she said. "I'm not going into a bad program that has all-new freshmen. They've been continuously progressing over the years."
As far as her goals for after college, Mazzella said, "To hopefully work in a special education school and help special needs kids."