FORT BENNING, Ga. (Nov. 28, 2012) -- Syerra Askew showed a knack for softball when she was 5 years old. Her father, Jonathan Askew, said he first noticed it as he looked out the window of his Family's apartment complex in East Columbus and watched her throw a tennis ball against the brick wall of an outside staircase.

"She was throwing it as hard as she could and catching it," he said. "I ... put a glove on her hand … and told her, 'you might be a softball player.'"

Indeed, she turned into one -- a good one. Syerra Askew played four years on the Columbus High School softball team, won a state championship her freshman year and emerged as one of the leaders of the team as a senior. The Blue Devils finished fifth in the state tournament in 2012 with a 31-6-1 record.

The daughter of a defense contractor at Fort Benning and retired Army veteran, Syerra shared those memories with Family and classmates Nov. 16 as she signed a letter of intent with North Carolina A&M at the Columbus High School main auditorium.

"It was an exhilarating moment," Syerra said.

Syerra, who played catcher as a senior, sat on stage next to one of her best friends and teammates, Alexis Jones, who signed to play for Georgia Tech next year.

"Whenever I've had a bad game, (my teammates) have been there to pick me up," Syerra said. "They really help me to play better and they improve my character all around.

"(Alexis and I) have known each other since sixth grade and we've played together for a long time. We room together on travel ball and we've always been on the same team. In the offseason, we'll probably come home and practice together and work out. I know we won't play softball again together, but we'll be close friends."

Syerra said she never would have made it this far without the help and support of her dad, who stayed to work with her after practice and even on the weekends.

"She gave up a lot of her social life," Jonathan Askew said. "No boyfriends or going out with friends. Sometimes we would practice on the weekends and have three-a-days. We'd start a 8 a.m. and take a break at 11 a.m., come back and practice from 2 to 4 p.m., and then start again at 6 p.m. until whenever."

Chad Mathis, Columbus's softball head coach and athletic director, said Askew will be missed as the team looks forward to next year.

"She managed our pitchers very well," Mathis said. "She and our pitching coach really gelled together. They had great chemistry. (Syerra) had a great arm. Not many people tried to steal on us -- they respected her ability. I think she's the type of player who can go right into a school like North Carolina A&M and make an influence as a freshman. She's that good of a player."