Ridgeland senior Marianne Beliveau became the Ridgeland Lady Panthers' newest college softball signee this past Wednesday when she put her name on a letter of intent to continue her career at the University of the Cumberlands, an NAIA program in Williamsburg, Ky.
"It's a dream come true," Beliveau said. "Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to play college softball, so this is probably the best day that's ever happened to me.
"Their college is absolutely beautiful. It's really spread out with a good mix of old and new buildings and they really pay attention to and support its sports programs. That was the main thing I was really looking for in a school."
Beliveau transferred to Ridgeland prior to her sophomore season and was fully established as a key member of the squad by her junior year, when she batted .344 with 11 RBIs. This past season, she earned 7-AAAA All-Region first team status as she hit .431 with seven doubles and two homers to go with 20 RBIs and 18 runs scored.
She also went the entire season without a single strikeout at the plate.
"She's grown up a lot," Ridgeland head coach Richie Wood explained. "We sat down over breakfast one morning in Tiftonia and I told her what I expected and she carried it out to the nth degree.
"She knows the game. She's a very smart player and (UC) is going to get a player that is going to continue to grow. She's not going to be stagnant when she gets there and she's constantly studying the game, working and working out. They're going to get a player that's going to help them become a better team and earn those conference championships they want."
Patriots head coach Bailey Dillender also remarked on Beliveau's growth and maturity over the past couple of years, saying that, athletically, Beliveau has "a huge upside and ceiling".
"I think the biggest thing we've tried to do since (Assistant) Coach (Alyssa) Richards and I took over four years ago is just to go out and get talented, athletic kids," Dillender said. "She definitely fits that mold of what we're looking to do and how we want to build our program right now.
"Obviously, it helps that she brings such a powerful punch at the plate and her versatility on defense will give us a ton of options and ways to get her on the field, so overall, we're just excited about her athleticism and what she's bringing to our team next year."
Beliveau called Dillender "an amazing coach" and gave her credit for sealing the deal that will take her about three hours north of northwest Georgia next fall.
She said she also hopes to establish herself as a leader for her new team.
"I'm probably going to be playing middle infield for them and I've been swinging the bat really well, but leadership is the main thing," she replied when asked what she will be able to bring to the Patriots program. "I love being a leader and encouraging other people, even when people make mistakes because everyone is going to make mistakes."
Beliveau has big plans for after college, where she plans to study political science and minor in criminology or psychology. She said she plans to join the Air Force after college and go to work for the CIA or the Department of Defense after her military commitment is finished.