Hailey Wiginton, four-year starter and All-Southland conference shortstop for Sam Houston as a player, was preparing for her first season in coaching as a graduation assistant for the Bearkats during the 2012 season when she received an overseas telephone call from Rome in February.

The call changed her life.

"Caserta, a team in the Italian Softball League, called inviting me to come play ball for them this season," Wiginton said. "I was torn because I already had committed to help coach (Bob) Brock as a graduate assistant, but this was an unexpected opportunity."

Brock, one of the "winningest" coaches in NCAA Division I softball, thought this decision was a "no-brainer."

"We told Hailey to go for it," the Sam Houston skipper who is nearing his 1,000th career coaching victory this spring. "This is a once in a lifetime chance to continue to play the sport she loves. There's not many opportunities to play professional softball in the United States."

Wiginton left for Italy a month ago and now is playing for the defending Italian league champion. She is a member of a truly international squad that includes another American Tenaya Tucker and an Aussie, Brenda De Blaes.

Last spring, the Friendswood, Texas, product was recognized as an All-Southland Conference selection for the fourth consecutive season.

She was an honorable mention selection as a freshman, second as a sophomore and first team each of the past two years. Wiginton posted a .331 batting average in 2011, leading the Bearkats in total hits (54), doubles (9) and home runs (9).

She completed her Bearkat career as Sam Houston's all-time leader in doubles (37), ranks second all-time in total runs (129), hits (224), and home runs (18) and is the third-leading hitter in Kat annals with a four-year batting mean of .348.

"Hailey is one of the best shortstops to play for Sam Houston State," Brock said. "She is a tremendous person as well and brought a lot of leadership to the program."

Wiginton came to Sam Houston after a decorated high school and club career.  She was a four-time first team all-district shortstop for Friendswood High School and a top player for Team Texas AFA softball club. Survant was an all-state and all-district outfielder for Bryan High School and played for Cy Fair Intruders Gold.

"What I always will remember about Sam Houston is how close all the athletes are," Wiginton said. "Not just the softball team, but all the athletes. We'd take the field at home games and see players from the football, volleyball, basketball, bowling and other teams in the stands cheering for us. It's like one big family here.

"Coach Brock has a passion for the game that few other coaches possess and I  learned a lot. The family atmosphere made it a tremendous experience."

Wiginton was graduated last May and was working on her graduate degree in curriculum instruction before the opportunity to play in Italy.

"Obviously, I intend to finish work on my graduate degree," Wiginton said. "This is such an exciting opportunity and I am grateful to all the support I received from everyone at Sam Houston to make this happen."