Laura Benavides has been a force to be reckoned with for opponents of the Robstown Lady Cotton Pickers' softball team. Now she's looking to take that talent to the next level.

The Robstown High School senior signed a letter of intent to play softball for the Rattlers of St. Mary's University in San Antonio last week. A large crowd of her fellow students and teammates gathered in the high school's cafeteria to watch Benavides commit to the school while her parents sat beside her.

Benavides, who started playing softball at the age of four, said she was glad to be able to share her joy at the April 21 event with everyone who has thus far supported her during her playing career.

"I love that I have that I have the support of my family and friends," she said. "I've always wanted to play at the college level, so for that to finally happen is a dream come true."

Benavides has hit seven home runs this season, four in pivotal district matchups, and has a .700 batting average. Head softball coach Sart Perez said aside from the impressive stats, Benavides has served as a role model for younger players.

"She deserves this," Perez said. "She's been a leader since she first came in (four years ago) by just the way she carried herself. I think a lot of girls respect her."

Laura's parents, Noe and Yolanda "Yoli" Benavides, said they were proud of all their daughter has accomplished.

"We saw the talent since she was three years old," Yoli said.

"She was always so self-motivated," Noe added.

Laura Benavides said she is planning to major in mathematics at St. Mary's in order to pursue a career as a teacher. She is also hoping to coach softball someday, she added.

For now, Benavides said she will enjoy her team's accomplishment in finishing their season undefeated in district play, which earned the Lady 'Pickers a bye week in the first round of the playoffs.

"I am going to miss high school softball," she said. "But I couldn't have asked for a better group of girls."