April 24, 2014
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
As Londen Ladner prepares for the end of her four-year career at Ole Miss, she hopes she advanced the sport of softball in Mississippi and paved the way for future student-athletes, if only a small part.
The Brandon, Miss., native was the Gatorade Player of the Year for Mississippi as a junior and senior at Northwest Rankin High School. And unlike most players at the collegiate level, Ladner played both slow-pitch and fast-pitch in high school.
She had plenty of walk-on offers throughout the Southeastern Conference, but she narrowed her choices to Ole Miss, Central Arkansas and Louisiana-Lafayette. She had better offers from other schools, but she wanted to stay in state and for other great players in Mississippi to look in state to see the potential.
“As a kid, I always wanted to play in the SEC, and as I got older I noticed there weren’t a lot of players from in-state on the roster,” Ladner said. “It became a goal of mine to stay in state because we do have talent, even though we’re a little behind. It’s awesome to be able to represent your state on the field.”
Lander has been a four-year starter at third base and first base, playing in 204 games with 202 starts. She ranks third in school history with 25 home runs and also ranks in the top 10 in batting average (.295), hits (158), doubles (33), runs batted in (121), walks (91), total bases (266), slugging percentage (.498), and on-base percentage (.417).
The lone native Mississippian on this year’s roster, she has carried the flag for the state, on and off the field, and even on the recruiting trail. An emotional leader and dynamic personality, people are drawn to her and feed off her energy.
“She’s a special kid,” Ole Miss head coach Windy Thees said. “She has actually helped us recruit some kids in the state of Mississippi that we will have coming here to Ole Miss over the next couple of years. She has so much pride in her state and her school. She’s a great person to show how someone can play fast pitch and slow pitch and come through those ranks. She’s developed so much as a hitter and as a player. She has become a complete player over her four years and has been a leader since I have been here.”
“Mississippi is a small state, so growing up, everyone knew my name because I got Gatorade Player of the Year my junior and senior years,” Ladner said. It’s good to be able to play for those kids who look up to you, especially here at Ole Miss. I work all the camps, and you see a lot of familiar faces, and they’re always like, ‘We’re from Mississippi, too. I want to be in your shoes when I get older.’ I take a lot of pride in that. It’s something great to hear and it keeps me going day in and day out.”
As a part of this year’s six-member senior class, she has helped change the culture and direction of Ole Miss softball. Teams in the past lost, and they were used to it. Now, the team has a mentality of going into games knowing they should win.
Ladner and her senior teammates were a part of that change in culture in hopes of the program taking the next step forward to be in the top 25 and go to the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
She hopes to be a part of a similar change within her home state and show you can rise through the ranks in Mississippi and play collegiate softball at the highest level.
“The best thing about it is knowing that it’s possible,” Ladner said. “If you put in the time, effort, practice, and you get your name out with recruiting and you go to camps and you do all those great things, you can be doing the same thing I’m doing. It was a challenge, but you can do it.”
Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller