Seymour softball star Lauren Irwin signs with Tennessee

Nov. 16, 2013 @ 03:29 PM

 It was no surprise when the FedEx envelope arrived on Lauren Irwin’s porch.

But the 18-year-old was still ecstatic when she opened the package and feasted her eyes on her future.

“When I walked out on the porch on Friday and it was really sitting there, I was like ‘Ahhh,’ ” Irwin said. “It was like angels sang to me. I was so excited. I was like a kid in a candy store opening the mail.”

Irwin finally signed that paperwork to play softball at the University of Tennessee on Friday in the Seymour High School library a year after committing to the Lady Vols. Irwin is the third Eagle in the school’s history to sign with Tennessee after football player Scott Galyon more than 20 years ago and golfer Jennifer Davis a little more than a decade ago.

“It’s big,” said Seymour Athletic Director Gary Householder, decked out in a Tennessee polo. “I think it’s big for our program. She’s the first one in softball. ... We’re just really proud of her. She works hard. She’s played softball for a long time at a very high level. She’s very deserving. I look forward to watching her play down there.”

Householder and the Eagles still get a chance to see Irwin for one more season at the high school level. She’s powered the Eagles to three straight state tournament appearances. That includes a game-winning homer Householder recalled in the region semifinals — a round that was Seymour’s ceiling for years — her freshman year.

Friday’s ceremony brought together former Eagles coach Dayna Carter, who left for Christian Academy of Knoxville in the offseason, and new coach Jessica Sterling. Both talked about Irwin’s versatility.

“The great thing about Lauren is she can play anywhere,” Carter said. “She can adapt to anything she’s given. She could be a utility player. She can literally play anywhere: outfield, middle infield. She’s played third base. She can pitch. Our expectations are she’s such a great, tremendous athlete they can get her in wherever they need her.”

Irwin said last summer playing for Tennessee is her dream and she reiterated that on Friday . Her dad, Brian Irwin, said he remembers her wanting to join the Lady Vols since she was six. While that’s a dream shared by many young girls, the elder Irwin said his daughter put in the time and sacrifice year after year to make it happen.

Sterling has already seen it.

“Her work ethic is unbelievable,” Sterling said. “We’ve done a new weight program this year. She’s really bought into it. She leads them in the weight room.”

Now, it’s just a matter of taking that attitude and applying it at the college level. Brian Irwin said his daughter intends to compete for a starting spot with that same level of work and hustle.

But for now, Lauren Irwin is just enjoying the moment.

“Looking at those papers when they came in, it was crazy to make myself realize that it’s actually happening, that it’s right here,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for so long and it’s finally here. It just doesn’t even seem real that I’m going to be there next year.”