South Lamar's Hancock signs with Wallace State
Sun. February 12, 2012 at 11:19 p.m. | By Becky Hopf
Laken Hancock, center, will play at Wallace State next year for coaches Jayne Clem, right, and Tracy Grindrod, standing. Her South Lamar coach, Tony Seals, is at left. Her father, Johnny — who died of cancer last March — got Hancock started in her softball career. (Photo by Submitted photo)
TUSCALOOSA | Laken Hancock’s father was with her every step of the way, leading her onto the diamond when she was 5, coaching her baseball and softball youth teams, cheering her on from the stands while she shone as a pitcher and shortstop at South Lamar High School.
"Softball was always our thing," the 18-year-old right-hander said of her relationship with her father, Johnny. "He was my coach and my biggest supporter. It was both our dreams that one day I’d play college softball."
Their dream was realized recently when Laken signed a softball scholarship with Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. When she took that step, Johnny was not there — cancer took him last March 26 — yet she still felt his presence.
"I felt like he was watching over me," Hancock, an Ethelsville native, said. "I knew he was smiling down on me."
Hancock is a three-time AHSAA Class 1A all-state player, two-time Tuscaloosa News Top 12 player and has been all-county and all-state tournament.
She helped power South Lamar to the state championship game in 2009 and 2011 and the final four in 2010.
In a 6-3 loss to Ragland in the championship game in 2011, Hancock hammered a seventh inning two-run home run.
In a 1-0 loss to Speake in the 2009 state championship game, she allowed only four hits and struck out five.
In another state finals game against Speake, she struck out 15 and allowed only three hits in Speake’s only Class 1A loss that season.
"She’s won our hitters award, batted over .400 one year and batted right around .380 last year," South Lamar softball coach Tony Seals said. "She’s very aggressive, very competitive. Wants to win. Her personality is really the personality of our team. They just all go in together. She’s just one major piece of it.
"I can tell you this about Laken: I don’t care if it’s the first game or the state championship game, she plays the same. She plays hard. Every time she steps on the field, she wants to win. That’s the way she plays, that’s her personality."
Hancock said she’s been told she could possibly play pitcher and shortstop in college.
"I enjoy both. Pitching was what my dad played and what I grew up playing. With shortstop, I love being on the field."
Meanwhile, she has one more dream to achieve before she leaves: a state championship.
"My team has been there for me, through good and bad, and helped get me where I am. Winning the state championship with them would be great."