April 26, 2013
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - When Southern Miss and East Carolina begin their 13th all-time series this weekend at the Southern Miss Softball Complex, it will be about much more than the game. It will be the final time three Golden Eagles seniors lace up their cleats and play at home as the program wraps up their 2013 home slate over the three-game set.
First pitch for both days, Saturday and Sunday, is set for 1 p.m. with Saturday serving as "Girl Scouts and Their Heroes" Day at the park and Senior Day on Sunday. Saturday will feature a pair of games in the regularly scheduled doubleheader.
Seniors Beth Dietrich, Kimberly Wagner and Danielle LaPointe have combined for 261 collegiate appearances heading into the weekend and look to build off last week's victory over Central Florida in Orlando as they head towards the C-USA Tournament in Tulsa.
However, the Pirates (21-25, 11-7 C-USA) offer one of the tougher tests of the season for the Golden Eagles (12-37, 2-15) as ECU has won nine straight against Southern Miss.
Led by freshmen Morgan McKeever and Michelle Stringer, the Golden Eagles will try to send their seniors out on top and put space between their squad and rival UTEP for the eighth seed in the C-USA tournament.
Led by pitcher Sarah Christian, the Pirates enter the weekend in a tie for fourth place with Marshall and will be jockeying for position as the Herd face C-USA leader UAB this weekend.
Media relations student assistant Patrick Ferlisle sat down with LaPointe this week to talk about her career at Southern Miss heading into her final homestand.
By Patrick Ferlise, Athletic Media Relations Student Assistant
Spending the majority of her life practicing a sport she loved most would be an understatement, to say the least.
For Danielle LaPointe, softball was more than just a game, but a lifestyle choice that propelled her to success at the collegiate level. It brought her to The University of Southern Mississippi, over 1,000 miles away from her home in Wildomar, Calif.
Now a senior psychology major, LaPointe looks forward to what the future has in store for the next chapter of her life. With her final year coming to a close, she hopes to stay at Southern Miss to attend graduate school to learn Child and Family Studies.
"With my fiancée being in the military, I really want to work with families and children in the armed forces community," she said. "People always go to counseling because they miss their wives or husbands, but I'll be going through that too - it could help me to see where they're coming from too."
LaPointe admits she has always wanted to become a marriage and family counselor, and meeting her fiancée has also made that hope turn into a reality. Since she will be moving frequently, it made sense for her to pursue that career path.
But before her heart fell for Southern Miss and a boy named Nolan, LaPointe's journey began at a young age when she stepped on the softball field for the first time. From the age of five, her father, Dan, trained her for the moment where she would sign to play at a university.
She started competitive softball when she was 12, and continued until her senior year of high school. Her mother, Trisha, sister, Dominique and brother, Dillon, were supporting her every step of the way.
"They sacrificed a lot for me throughout the years," she said. "Sometimes, they'd even come up and put a ball in the tee for me when we had to travel for my games."
Later on in her amateur career, LaPointe would face an obstacle that was difficult to overcome, and could have shattered her chances at transitioning to student-athlete status in college.
Her final year of high school was met with a dismal injury to her shoulder, which later led to surgery. It was then that universities began to ease off interest in having her talents on the roster.
"I graduated high school still with no offers from anywhere," she said. "Coaches just stopped talking to me when they found out about it."
At a showcase tournament in Las Vegas, the Golden Eagles caught the eye of a curious LaPointe. She then asked her coach the name of the team that was sporting black and gold uniforms.
"I couldn't tell you why, but I wanted something different and I was stuck on this place," she said. "I knew nothing about it, but I had my dream set on here."
That year, she began talks with the University and was adamant on attending. Head coach Howard Dobson was at the helm at the time, but LaPointe soon found out that the Golden Eagles didn't have a spot on the roster for her. Even after the disappointing news, she stayed consistent in attempting to catch the eye of Southern Miss and catch her dream.
"When we got the bad news, I remember breaking down in our garage during practice with my dad," she said. "He told me that he would do whatever he could to get me here."
To LaPointe's luck, a player left the squad to attend the University of Georgia. What looked to be an unfortunate situation turned into an achieved dream, as Dobson gave her the news.
She arrived in July of 2009 to visit, and immediately felt that the university and her new team was the ideal fit. In a way, it was as if things had fallen into alignment and a positive four years lay on the horizon.
Since then, LaPointe has gained a sense of pride and place in Southern Miss. She also has watched herself grow into a better person, through both softball and the rest of her life.
Under current head coaches Jon Malgradi and Kirsten Voak, LaPointe says she has witnessed tremendous support from her coaching staff and fellow team mates. Coming to the end of her senior year, she claims to feel that more than ever.
"I thank Southern Miss for all of this, because it's done so much for me," she said. "Being a part of the family here at the university, you're in something that is bigger than yourself - it's great."
This season has been a banner year for LaPointe. In 2013, she has compiled career numbers alone that eclipse the totals of her first three seasons combined including starts, doubles, total bases and walks. She has also set career highs in: batting average, at-bats, runs scored, hits, doubles, homers, total bases, slugging percentage, walks, on-base percentage and stolen bases.