SOUTH WHITLEY — Ask nearly any young girl playing softball for the first time if they want to play catcher, and the answer is almost always a very emphatic, “no.”

The chest protector is sweaty. The mask squeezes your face. And after one inning catching, the knees start to ache. For Whitko senior Emmalee Duggins, there is no place she would rather be than behind the plate for the Lady Wildcats.

Duggins, a four-year starter for Whitko during the most successful run in team history, will continue her softball career after high school. Duggins signed her national letter of intent to play softball in college at Indiana-Purdue University in Indianapolis.

When it came to choosing where to play, Duggins said the decision was pretty easy.

“My cousin Ashley played at IUPUI and I grew up watching them play,” Duggins said of the IUPUI program. “As soon as I was offered (the scholarship) I made my decision.”

Duggins started her softball career in the outfield when she was young. But she decided early on that being in the outfield wasn’t for her. She wanted to be where the action was at on every play.

“I get bored easily so playing catcher keeps me into it on every play,” Duggins said.

IUPUI is in the Horizon League. The Lady Jaguars play against conference teams like Wright State and Youngstown State. Plus, IUPUI faces Notre Dame, Illinois and Butler every season. Duggins’ coach knows she will fit right in against the tough competition.

“She is that kid you want on the field,” Whitko head coach Michele Garr said. “She is a gritty player.”

Garr said Duggins is the player who works year-round and is willing to do whatever it takes to win. The Whitko coach said what sets Duggins apart from other players is that the work she puts in shows up on the field, where her fundamentals are second to none.

IUPUI not only gives Duggins the chance to play softball at the college level, but also offers her an academic track that she has always wanted. Duggins plans to go in to education at IUPUI and become an elementary school and special education teacher.

“I wanted to go somewhere that I knew I could make an impact,” Duggins said of her choice. “It’s what I wanted.”

College is not the most important thing on Duggins’ mind right now. Instead she is focusing like the rest of her Whitko teammates on getting back to semi-state for a third season in a row. The Whitko season begins this month for Duggins and her teammates.