MELISSA — Accomplished on the softball field and in the classroom, 2019 Melissa High School graduate Kylee Brakebill saw her hard work and devotion pay off on Aug. 14. Joined by family, friends and teammates in the MHS gymnasium, Brakebill inked her National Letter of Intent to attend and play softball for Southern Arkansas University.

Brakebill’s awards during her three varsity seasons as the Lady Cards’ starting catcher include District Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore, District Catcher of the Year as a junior and First-Team All-District pick as a senior last spring. The Lady Cards’ lead-off hitter for much of her career as well, Brakebill had a knack for getting on base – and scoring.

She was also a four-time Academic All-District honoree and, as a senior, made the Academic All-State list as awarded by the Texas Girls Coaches Association.

This past season, the Lady Cards posted the most wins in program history - 26 - and made their first-ever appearance in the regional semifinals. Particularly sweet was beating undefeated district champ Aubrey in Round 3 of the playoffs.

“You’ve been a major piece of what we’ve done,” Melissa head coach Eric Rodgers told Brakebill.

He added, “There’s a reason we don’t just look at batting average and things like that. As a sophomore, she got on base 64 times and scored 37 times. As a senior she got on base 62 times and scored 37 times. This year she would probably tell you she didn’t do what she wanted at the plate. But she did what we needed her to do - and that was get on base. We didn’t care how.”

Rodgers noted that Brakebill, who walked 27 times last season and was hit by a pitch nine times, scored 108 career runs and was always among the team’s Top 3 or 4 in offensive stats.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is she had offers all year,” he said. “Colleges wanted her. One college just about had her but she had the maturity to say, ‘That’s not for me, academically.’ She chose her path and now it’s working out for her.”

Brakebill said she was feeling a little stressed with moving day fast approaching, but added, “I’m really excited to be able to go to the next level. The [SAU] professors are super nice and the coach is amazing. He’s very personable and the girls are very respectful. Everybody is really nice up in Arkansas.”

She plans to study nursing.

NCAA Division II SAU, located in Magnolia, Ark., competes in the Great American Conference. The Lady Muleriders softball team is coming off back-to-back GAC regular-season championships and has won 45 games or more each of the past four seasons.

Brakebill said one of her favorite Lady Cardinal memories is last season’s playoff run. “Our team was a little bit broken at some points and we really got back together in the playoffs. Everybody loved each other and we were just having ‘sister’ moments. We were all really ‘sisters.’”

Brakebill’s parents, Kyle and Kristi Brakebill, were at the signing event as was her brother, Kale Brakebill. Kristi Brakebill is an assistant coach for Lady Cards softball and Kyle Brakebill has coached his daughter as well.

Kylee Brakebill said she treasured being coached by her parents. “I’ve always been around my parents. My dad was on the field with me at one point and I had my mom [at Melissa] all four years. We only grew closer. It was great.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of who she’s become,” Kristi Brakebill said. “Being on the field with her and watching her do all the things she’s done has just been amazing. And to be her mom and be out there with her was even better. … She chose her path academically, and it led her to this ability to be able to play softball.”

Kristi Brakebill said defeating Aubrey in the playoffs this year held a special moment for her. “On the field it’s always, ‘Coach, coach, coach.’ But at the end of this game, it was ‘Mom, we did it!’”

“Overwhelming,” is how Kyle Brakebill described watching his daughter sign to play college ball. “It’s amazing the support that she has here in Melissa. … We’re going to be 150-percent behind her. Tears or no tears, she has always made me proud – from the day we started coaching her when she was 6 and 7. Kristi was the head coach, I was her assistant. We knew right then she was going to be a bundle of joy to watch.”

Brakebill is the fourth Lady Cardinal from the Class of 2019 who has signed with a college to play softball. The others are Audrey Solomon, Macy Stewart and Alexis Pevehouse.