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Maddie Swart has been "The Don" of Region softball the last couple of seasons, a player with great esteem for her Kankakee Valley Kougars.

The junior catcher has been a part of a program that's made it to two straight Class 3A state championship games, which is no easy feat.

But on Monday she found out that she will be a "Don" in college, too, as Swart committed to play softball for IPFW coach Germaine Fairchild, whose Mastodons compete in the Summit League.

"When I started playing I really wanted to play Division I," Swart said.

The left-handed hitting athlete comes from very good stock. Her father, Dan, was a standout baseball player for Doug Greenlee a generation ago, while her mom, Annie, played volleyball, basketball and ran track for the Kougars before both graduated from K.V. in 1993.

"My dad loved baseball and we used to watch it together when I was younger," Swart said. "I just fell in love with the game after that."

She remembered tryouts her freshman year at K.V., with coach Brian Flynn and his staff looking at all the pieces to the puzzle. Swart assumed she would play junior varsity in ninth grade. She was wrong.

It didn't take long for Flynn to realize what he had in Swart.

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She started catching for the varsity Game 1 that year and hasn't given up the position.

"With a lifetime of watching players, there are certain movements and attitudes that you see and you know what you've got," Flynn said. "The No. 1 thing is the rocket she has on her shoulder. She can block almost anything and she can throw almost anyone out."

As a freshman, K.V. advanced to the Class 3A state championship game and there was a play that shocked almost everyone attending Ben Davis High School. A wild pitch went over Swart's head with a runner at first, the ball bounced right back to her and she threw the girl out at second.

"The girl was standing there saying, 'How did that just happen,'" Flynn said.

Last year the Kougars returned to state, with Swart batting .477 with 20 RBIs and 37 runs scored.

Swart plans on studying elementary education at Fort Wayne and is happy the recruiting stress won't be there into her senior season.

"IPFW was the perfect fit for me, I loved it when we visited," Swart said. "I called the coach and told her I was 100 percent sure I wanted to play there and she said she was excited for me to be a future 'Don."

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Sports Reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.