STARKVILLE, Miss. - For the past four years now, one would never hear someone talk about Mississippi State softball without the name Kellie Wilkerson being uttered shortly thereafter."> STARKVILLE, Miss. - For the past four years now, one would never hear someone talk about Mississippi State softball without the name Kellie Wilkerson being uttered shortly thereafter.">

A Legend Concludes Her College Career

<img src="" align="left" width="120" height="166"> STARKVILLE, Miss. - For the past four years now, one would never hear someone talk about Mississippi State softball without the name Kellie Wilkerson being uttered shortly thereafter.

The reasons are simple. The three-time all-American has 20 single season or career records at Mississippi State, a handful of Southeastern Conference career records and two NCAA save records. If there is anything Wilkerson has not accomplished in her four years of collegiate softball, the list is pretty short.

Oh yeah, and there are those three first team all-SEC awards as well.

"Kellie is one of the most dominant players ever to play collegiate softball," said Mississippi State head coach Kathy Arendsen. "She makes a real statement with how she plays the game. She is a strong and confident player with great skill and has meant so much to this team, both on and off the field, in her time here."

But the name has meant so much more to the Bulldogs over the past four seasons than just another name in the record books. Wilkerson has been lauded for her leadership values since her first day on campus. She can regularly be seen coaching her teammates inside the batter's box and she always can lighten a stressful situation with her quick wits and hearty laugh.

"In the most stressful situations, Kellie can have every one of the players in the dugout in stitches," said Todd Anderson, MSU's assistant athletic media relations director and softball contact. "That's just the type of person she is. She cares much more about how her teammates are playing than how she is performing. She is the total team player in the fact that she cares much more about how her teammates are feeling than how she is performing.

"You can almost see a game change when Kellie steps into the batter's box or walks into the pitching circle. Her presence is enough to intimidate even the most dominant pitcher or batter. Even when things don't go her way in those situations, Kellie is the first one to seek out that player after a game and compliment them on their performance."

Wilkerson's best quality, however, may be her friendship and her laid back personality. Although showcasing a very intimidating game face, Wilkerson may be the most approachable superstar one could ever find. She is quick to find time to sign autographs for her fans and even quicker to lend a hand to someone in need.

After learning that the mother of a close friend - LSU all-American pitcher Britni Sneed - was battling cancer, the humanitarian in Wilkerson shone through brightly. Through another friend, Wilkerson learned of Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children across the U.S. under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss, and was quick to shed 13 inches of her own hair prior to the current campaign. Sneed snipped off nearly a foot of her own locks shortly after Wilkerson informed her of the organization.

"That was incredible what she did," said Sneed, a two-time all-American and, arguably, the most dominant pitcher in the history of the SEC. "I was with my mom through the whole wig process and Kellie was blessed and fortunate enough to do what she did. It just shows the big heart that she has. She is the type of person that can bring a smile to anyone's face. She is hilarious and she is willing to reach so many people with that quality."

No player in the SEC has gotten more respect than Wilkerson over the last four years. She captured the Southeastern Conference batting title on two occasions (1999, 2000) and, last season, finished within two votes of Sneed in garnering SEC Player of the Year honors. The respect of her abilities to change a game can be directly supported in the amount of free passes she has been issued in her collegiate tenure.

She enters this weekend's series against the Florida Gators with a .425 career average to support 110 extra-base hits and 165 RBIs. She also sports a career .714 slugging percentage and a .544 on base percentage. Her 173 career walks is tops in SEC annals and currently ranks sixth in the NCAA books (third among active players). She needs just six more walks to move into fourth place on the NCAA charts. Of the 173 free passes in her career, 29 have come intentionally.

In the pitching circle, Wilkerson has been equally as dominant, tallying a 21-11 career record to accompany a 1.62 ERA and 31 saves. She has struck out 165 batters in 100 career appearances and 198.2 innings of work. In her three years as a pitcher for the Maroon and White (Wilkerson did not pitch during her sophomore season), she has held opponents to a paltry .189 batting average.

"Kellie has always been a thorn in our side," said Arkansas head coach Carie Dever-Boaz. "I think we began to show her respect in her freshman year after she beat us a couple of times at the plate. She has always found ways to get the big hits against us and you have to respect a player like that.

"Kellie always lives on the wild side and you can see in her eyes the passion she has for playing the game. She has been a spark plug for Mississippi State throughout her entire career."

So, as Wilkerson trots off of the Mississippi State Softball Field for the final time after State's series finale with Florida on Sunday afternoon, she will leave behind a legacy for others to follow, but many more to awe. Wilkerson will always have her place in the Mississippi State record books, but will occupy many more important spaces in the hearts of her fans, teammates and coaches.

"It's hard to believe how fast these four years have gone by," Arendsen said. "We've had the pleasure of watching Kellie not only develop into an outstanding softball player, but also into a caring and generous young woman.

"Certainly she has left her mark at Mississippi State and she will be deeply missed. We eagerly anticipate her building upon her Bulldog success and feel assured that she will go on to even greater accomplishments in the future."

Maroon and White fans can watch Kellie play for the final time this weekend as the 'Dogs entertain Florida in a three-game series at the Mississippi State Softball Field. The two will open up the series in a 12 p.m. Saturday doubleheader and will go head-to-head in the series finale on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Sunday's contest will be preceded by Senior Day festivities as Wilkerson and staff ace Kasey Whitehead will be honored in a pregame ceremony.

Admission to all 2002 Mississippi State softball home games is free of charge.

Reprinted with the permission of the MSU Media Relations Department

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