NEXT LEVEL

North East senior shortstop Jess Choplinsky signs her National Letter of Intent in November to continue her softball career at UMBC, an NCAA Division I institution.

NORTH EAST — University of Maryland, Baltimore County — recognized nationally as UMBC — had everything North East senior shortstop Jess Choplinksy was looking for when she set out in search of a school where she could continue her softball career.

“It was close to home, I also love the softball program and the girls, and they had what I wanted to major in,” said Choplinsky, who signed her National Letter of Intent in November to play for the Retrievers at the NCAA Division I level. “I’m really excited. The campus is so pretty.”

Choplinsky, a two-time honorable mention recipient and a 2017 All-County infielder, enters her senior season with the Indians.

The only difference now is that the soon-to-be rare four-year varsity player will no longer take the field in blue and white hoping to impress college scouts. Instead, the entire focus will be on returning North East to the state playoffs for the first time since her freshman season and preparing for the college experience.

“I love [North East head coach Kim] Evans. The three years I’ve been playing has been a great experience. Being able to play shortstop, a position that I love, is just a great feeling, and getting to know the girls is a great feeling.”

Choplinsky inked her intentions to play for UMBC following a junior season in which she finished second on the Indians with 18 hits and 12 RBIs and a team-leading 13 runs. From her place near the top of the lineup, she batted a robust .346 with four extra-base hits.

All the while, she provided her team with a solid glove in the middle of the infield.

“It was nerve-racking and stressful, especially when the UMBC coach would come to watch me play before I actually committed,” Choplinsky said. “Just practicing, and I had to work my butt off to be a Division I softball player and never give up. I realized that if I wanted to be a D1 softball player, I had to practice almost every day.”

She also credited her travel softball team — where she plays alongside several area players who will also go Division I — for helping her reach the next level.

“I feel like people usually don’t see athletes from Cecil County Public Schools going D1. It’s an amazing feeling to be one of those D1 athletes,” Choplinsky said. “It’s also getting me prepared for D1. Knowing that I may face those people that I grew up with in high school is a cool experience.”

Once at Catonsville, Choplinsky is expected to play shortstop and third base. The Retrievers are members of the American East Conference and routinely take on a schedule that also features nearby University of Maryland, Towson and Delaware.

In August, UMBC hired head coach Chris Kuhlmeyer, who previously held an assistant role with Miami (Ohio).

“I’ve watched [UMBC] a few times, and I saw one of their practices with their new coach,” Choplinsky said. “He was knowledgeable, all the girls seemed to like him and he interacted with the girls really well.”

Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig

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