Hanahan softball player Lauren Eastwood gets high praise from coach Chris Pope.

"She's probably the most talented hitter I've ever coached, and that's saying a lot since we've had three players at Hanahan go on to play at Division I schools," Pope said. "She's probably got the quickest hands I've seen."

Eastwood, who plays shortstop, is pretty quick in the classroom, too. She's graduating a year early and will enroll at Spartanburg Methodist College next fall when most of her friends will be deciding on their matriculation plans.

"I have all the credits," said Eastwood, who describes herself as an A-B student. "I realized I could graduate early. I'm going to miss my senior year a little. But there were some senior-related things I got to do this year, and I think it will be OK. I talked to my parents about it, and they said it was my decision and they would support me if I decided to go or stay."

Eastwood has been a star since she joined the varsity team as an eighth-grader in 2007. She led the Hawks in hitting her freshman year and helped them win their first state championship, topping Crescent in the '08 championship series. It was the first time in school history that Hanahan won the title. The Hawks qualified for the state championship series in 1987, '88 and '95 and were beaten each time by Crescent.

Last year, the Hawks were eliminated by Cheraw in the Class AA Lower State Championship Series. The Hawks finished with a 21-8 record, and Eastwood had a big role in the team's success. She was second on the team in hitting with a .441 batting average, collecting 33 runs and 22 RBIs. Ashton Jarrett, who now plays for the College of Charleston, led the team with a .465 batting average.

Late last summer, Eastwood was selected to compete in the Queen of Diamonds Showcase South. The event is the second -biggest fastpitch softball showcase in the country, and attracts athletes from 33 states and two Canadian provinces.

"That's when Spartanburg Methodist saw me," she said. "I'm going to SMC to get an education. They're a great school academically, and at the same time it allows me to play softball at a higher level than high school. Another reason I chose to go there is because of my major. Not every school offers my major, and that limits me on where I can go. My major is engineering, so that really only leaves me with two choices, which are Clemson, which doesn't have a softball program, and (South) Caro-lina. I like my chances of going to SMC to start my education and of getting to play softball, and after my two years, maybe even one, going to a Division I school for softball that has my major."

But for now, Eastwood is focused on helping the Hawks get back to the state championship series. She is batting a team-best .582.

"She is hitting the ball really well," Pope said. "With players like Lauren, it makes coaching a lot easier. She works hard and gets the job done. She delivers."

The Hawks own a 13-7 record heading into next week's playoffs, and two of the losses were to Waccamaw.

"Our goal is to win it all," Eastwood said. "We want to come back and win it this year. The only team standing in our way is Waccamaw, and we can definitely beat them. If we beat them, we can win the state championship."

And a state championship would be a great graduation gift for Eastwood and the seniors on the team.