Corona del Mar High incoming senior Sydney McKeown knows the value of hard work.
Unlike many local high school players, she has competed tirelessly on the softball diamond for both the Sea Kings and her travel-ball team, Firecrackers-Blanco Gold. In travel-ball, she went to tournaments in Oregon, Colorado and Illinois this summer before playing at the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships in Huntington Beach.
On her travel-ball team, McKeown plays center field. In high school, she has also played pitcher.
Now, she has put herself in a position to play at the next level.
McKeown has verbally committed to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), she said Wednesday night. And she doesn't plan to stop working now.
"Most people think that this is where you're finally done, the work stops," she said. "But basically, your work has just begun. You still have to keep your skills up and get even better to prepare for the college level, and you have to keep your grades up. This is basically where it all begins now."
McKeown earned 2014 Daily Pilot Dream Team Newport-Mesa Player of the Year honors this past spring for CdM. The lefty leadoff hitter batted an area-best .662, which was 36th in the state of California according to Maxpreps.com. She led CdM (9-16, 0-10 in league) with 24 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. In the circle, she was 3-3 with a 1.90 earned-run average.
She is the first CdM softball player to commit to an NCAA Division I program since Michelle Tolfa (class of 2007), who played three years at Princeton. Tolfa was actually McKeown's first pitching coach.
McKeown said she fell in love with Ole Miss during a camp there in July. The Rebels went 22-31 last season, but just 3-21 in the Southeastern Conference. They have a new head coach this year, Mike Smith.
"It's so traditional, and everyone's so genuine, with the Southern hospitality and everything," McKeown said. "It has so much history behind it, and the campus was just beautiful."
McKeown, a two-time first-team All-Pacific Coast League selection, said she is proud to commit to a Division I program.
"I think it's really good for the [CdM] program and it'll make us look better, I guess, but it still hasn't really sunk in that I've verbaled," she said. "It's so weird to see it in writing."
She will continue to work hard.