College athletics isn’t just an honor in the Cowger family, it's a tradition.
Dave Cowger played college golf at the University of Minnesota-Morris. Sisters Kate, 23, and Tori, 21, played softball at the University of Minnesota. Their mother, Annette Cowger, cheered at a small Minnesota Division 3 college for a year.
Fenton High School senior Sammi Cowger, 17, isn't about to break that tradition. Last week, she signed a letter of intent to play softball at the collegiate level — however, she will be the first in the family to do so outside the state of Minnesota. She will play softball at Ball State University in Indiana.
“Playing Division 1 has been a goal for me for a really long time,” Sammi said. "To play and get that opportunity, it’s really exciting.”
Although Sammi is not following her family's legacy at Minnesota, her parents are excited to have her a little closer to home. Ball State University is about a five-hour drive from Fenton, much shorter than the 15-hour hike to Minnesota.
The family was able to attend Minnesota away games at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University or Purdue University; but since Ball State is in the Mid-American Conference, many of Sammi's away games will be right around the corner at Western, Eastern and Central Michigan universities and the University of Toledo in Ohio.
"With Kate and Tori, Minnesota seemed pretty far when it was a game day, and we couldn't be there," Annette said."It's sure makes it nice to have Sammi a bit closer."
Three girls playing collegiate softball — pretty impressive, right? Oh, we forgot to mention there will likely be a fourth. Fenton sophomore and youngest sister, Ellie, is starting the recruiting process and looking at schools in the Midwest.
With Kate and Tori having completed their collegiate softball careers, things have been a little saner in the Cowger family, but that hasn't always been the case.
"It sure was interesting during the summers when they were all playing travel ball," Annette said. "At one point, Kate was playing 18U, Tori 16U, Sammi 12U and Ellie 10U, usually different towns and sometimes different states."
Sammi said watching her sisters play college softball will help her.
"Watching them, I saw the work they had to go through," Sammi said. "I saw where the bar was, and I can watch them and copy it to get myself to that level."
Sammi said she enjoyed her meeting with the Ball State coach as well as some of the team's players. Sammi also likes the school's academic programs.
"I really liked their campus. It just seemed like the right fit for me," Sammi said.
Sammi batted .446 during her junior year at Fenton and was also an All-Metro League pitcher. She plans to hit the weight room this offseason with a powerlifting program.
"I want to be stronger," Sammi said. "I want to be more consistent and eventually work for a starting spot and be a better overall player."
Not only does she perform on the field, but also in the classroom. She carries a 3.88 grade-point average and was an academic all-American in 2010. She plans to study exercise science at Ball State.
"We couldn't be more proud of our girls," Annette said. "They are all good softball players, but more so, they are good students and nice people. They work hard and are respectful of themselves and the people around them. They know that athletics have opened certain opportunities in their life, but they can't take it for granted."