Division I Lehigh University changed all of that.
And as a result of her journey to Bethlehem, Penn., Hamasaki made
a verbal commitment to the Mountain Hawks' program on Wednesday --
the first day of the week-long national signing period for high
school student-athletes -- with the intent of signing her national
letter in the near future.
"The last couple days were really hard convincing my parents and
it was pretty stressful because of all of the emotional issues tied
with leaving home," said Hamasaki, 17, who earned All-Pacific League
honors after posting a 12-11 record with a 0.80 earned-run average
during her junior campaign.
"But I knew when I came home that I wanted to go to Lehigh, and to
have the opportunity to play at the Division I level was something I
just couldn't pass up."
Lehigh finished 36-16 this past season, falling in the Patriot
League championship game to Army. Under Coach Fran Troyan, the
Mountain Hawks have won six league titles and made an appearance in
the NCAA regionals in 2001.
Hamasaki -- one of two Glendale players who will be competing in
the Patriot League, along with teammate Danielle Soule, who verbally
committed to Colgate on Wednesday -- said Troyan's personality and
coaching philosophy were two things that she valued a great deal.
"He's one of the friendliest people I've met and he's very
reminiscent of [Nitro Coach Kris] Kohlmeier," said Hamasaki, who also
cited the campus life and class sizes as some of the other key
factors that played into her decision.
"He had a very similar philosophy to the one at Glendale and
that's very attractive in a softball program. The players also had
that attitude, which is a good reflection on the coach."
Hamasaki, who hit .337 and drove in 13 runs for the Nitros this
past season, is still competing for the Simi Valley Ballistic
18-and-under Gold level travel-ball team until her senior season
starts in March. In addition to pitching at Lehigh, she said she
might also see time at third base and shortstop.