Delaney Elling could have waited before committing to a major college softball program. Nobody would have blamed her if she did.
After all, when you’re one of the top players in the WPIAL, and only a sophomore, the scholarship offers are going to be plentiful. Players like Elling, who have a rare combination of size, versatility and limitless potential, will have plenty of options and usually take months or years to settle on a school.
However, the way Elling looks at it, there’s no need to wait when you find a place that feels like home. That’s why Elling has given an oral commitment to attend Penn State and play for new Nittany Lions coach Amanda Lehotak.
“When you fall in love with a school and follow it for years, then there’s no reason to wait. I grew up with Penn State. My dad (David Elling) is a huge Penn State fan,” Elling said Thursday night during a telephone interview.
“I’m even talking to you in a room filled with Penn State fans.”
She chose Penn State over Stanford. Other schools that expressed interest were Alabama, Missouri and DePaul.
Trinity will have two Division I recruits in the lineup this season. Senior shortstop Olivia Gray committed to Pitt last year.
As a freshman, Elling helped Trinity (12-5) to a section championship by batting .533 with a .638 on-base percentage and .733 slugging percentage.
In the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs, Elling had a stellar performance, going 8-for-8 with eight RBI, in games against Brownsville and West Mifflin.
Though a catcher with Trinity, Elling is considered by Penn State to be a first baseman and designated hitter. She played first base, catcher and even some third base for her summer travel team, the New Jersey Cheetahs.
“First base is my strongest position, where I’m most capable,” Elling said.
Though it’s still three years away, when Elling finally joins the Nittany Lions she will at least be familiar with Nittany Lions Softball Park, which is home to the PIAA Championships. Elling already has been on the field for games.
“I’ve grown up at Penn State,” Elling said. “I’ve gone there for football games, and when I was in middle school I was there two years in a row for softball games, when I was the batgirl for a day. I was able to do that because of some kind of fundraiser.”
Elling’s instant impact with the Hillers as a freshman caught the attention of college coaches. So did her performance at two OnDeck National Elite Futures Camps, in Sacramento, Calif., in October of 2012 and Chicago last year.
Penn State was 16-34 overall last season, including 5-17 in the Big Ten. Lehotak was named the Nittany Lions’ head coach in July after spending the past two seasons at Texas-San Antonio.
“Big Ten softball is getting better,” Elling said. “The coaches at Penn State have told me there is no reason, with the facilities already there, that they can’t be at the top of the Big Ten by the time I get there.”