WOONSOCKET — During their truly exceptional high school careers on the Mount St. Charles Academy softball team, Emily and Olivia Hendricks have established themselves as the very best at their positions in the state.
Emily earned back-to-back All-State honors as a slick fielding shortstop who batted second and was an offensive threat from the left side of the plate, while Olivia posted a 36-15 mark as the Mounties’ ace pitcher, and offensively, was a bonafide run producer in the heart of the lineup.
On Wednesday afternoon, the twin sisters, who live in Millville, Mass., made their collegiate plans official when they inked letters of intent ‘down the road’ to the University of Rhode Island.
The Hendricks sisters are the third and fourth softball players from the area to sign letters of intent to Division I schools. Last year, MSC teammate and third baseman Nicole Silva signed with Bucknell University, while Lincoln pitcher Alyssa McCoart did the same with Central Connecticut State University.
And while it wasn’t much of a surprise where the Hendricks sisters wanted to play in college -- URI had been at the top of their choices for quite some time -- it was what positions they will be playing that raised a few eyebrows.
Olivia will be joining the Rams’ program with the notion of playing shortstop, while Emily will be moving to the outfield, most likely in center.
Most folks who follow high school softball throughout the state may be a bit surprised at this news, but all they need to do is take a look at what Emily and Olivia did during the summer on their New England Phoenix Gold travel team to notice what positions have been a natural fit for them.
“For our travel team, I almost always play shortstop,” added Olivia. “It’s my favorite position and it’s my best, and I’d much rather play that than pitcher.”
“And because she’s a shortstop and she had to pitch for (Mount St. Charles), I decided to try (shortstop) out and see how I can do,” continued Emily, “and it’s helped our team become pretty successful.”
Four seasons ago, MSC coach Cliff Matthews welcomed a young team that included several talented underclassmen and the Hendricks sisters -- but not one pitcher on his roster.
That’s when he turned to Olivia for help, and she stepped up to win a league-best 13 games and help guide the Mounties to a 13-3 record and the regular-season title.
Olivia again led the division in victories (17) and batted .350 as a sophomore to help the Mounties repeat as division champions and reach the state finals, where they lost to Coventry High, but no thanks to some bad luck, her junior year wasn’t as successful.
A small fracture on a sesamoid bone in her foot and a bone bruise on another sesamoid forced her to miss six weeks. She still managed to come back, bat .335, and win some games to help the Mounties return to the state finals, but they lost the title game in a thriller to Cumberland High.
“My foot is good now,” said Olivia. “It almost never bothers me. Rarely, after a workout or running a lot, it might hurt a tiny bit, but it hasn’t it a while. It’s pretty good and I think I won’t have a problem with it.”
Emily, meanwhile, was also able to adjust to her new position extremely well and has been regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in the state.
Offensively, she batted .335 as a freshman, had career highs in hits (35), runs scored (23), batting average (.435), and on base percentage (.532) as a tenth grader, and battled .385 with 34 hits and a .515 OBP last season.
Their outstanding play with the Mounties and their travel team exposed them to plenty of interest from colleges such as the University of Delaware, Seton Hall, Central Connecticut State University, and Iona College, but the sisters knew all along what their hearts were telling them.
“I personally like URI because it’s close, about an hour away,” added Olivia, who plans to major in Elementary Education. “We really like the coach (Erin Layton) and she made us feel welcomed when we came down.”
“And we’re near the beach,” Emily added with a laugh. “But URI’s a good school and it’s always been high on our list of options. Some colleges came and went, but URI’s always been there.”
But before Emily, who plans to study Interior and Graphic Design, and Olivia can set their sights on playing in the Atlantic-10, they have one more season of competitive play in the always-tough Division I-North and a goal to reach that has eluded them for quite some time.
“We want to win the state championship,” added Emily. “The past two years, coming in second -- we don’t want that to happen again this year.”