In an academic sense, Absegami senior softball standout Jocilyn Rudisill swung for the fences when choosing a college. Rudisill is an all-conference centerfielder who batted .392 with 30 runs and 19 stolen bases in 20 attempts.

Her longtime goal has always been to play college softball. Her No. 1 priority has always been to study engineering.

So while the thought of playing Division I was appealing, Rudisill decided she wanted to continue her softball career but balance it with a challenging academic course load. So she chose Division III Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (R.P.I.) in Troy, N.Y.

"I felt if I played Division III it would be easier to manage my schoolwork and softball," said Rudisill, who is ranked fourth in her senior class at Absegami. "I wanted to be an engineer, but there aren't a lot of Division I players who are engineers."

Obviously, there are Division I athletes who have excelled while completing the most difficult of majors, but Rudisill's point is well-taken.

It's difficult enough to study engineering and just as hard to play a collegiate sport, but when the two are combined the demands made on a student-athlete are magnified. With that in mind, she decided that attending a Division III school would best suit her needs.

That doesn't mean the softball competition will be easy. On the Division III level, virtually all the players have been all-stars in high school. However, Rudisill said she felt the time commitment would have been greater if she competed at a Division I school.

Many times, student athletes look only at the athletic side of the equation when making a college decision.

Rudisill wanted to be challenged academically while also playing at a high, but not the highest, level.

And at Rensselaer, she will be challenged academically. According to R.P.I. associate athletic director Kevin Beattie, there were 16,000 applicants among the current freshman class and just 1,150 were selected.

Founded in 1824, the school claims to be the oldest technological university in the country. U.S. News and World Report ranked Rensselaer 42d among all national universities.

Division III schools can't give athletic scholarships, but Rudisill will be attending Rensselaer on a partial academic scholarship.

"She made a very mature decision," said Frank Rudisill, her father. "All those long nights of studying and days of training paid off."

Jocilyn Rudisill made her decision in late September and has enjoyed not having to go through the stress of applying to colleges.

"I see what my friends have been going through and it's such a relief that it's done," she said.

Now she is looking forward to her senior year, where she will be the catalyst on an Absegami team that expects to be a factor in the Cape-Atlantic American Conference. Rudisill bats leadoff. According to veteran Absegami coach Patrick Esemplare, it's an appropriate spot for Rudisill since others follow her example both on and off the field.

"She is a very balanced student who works hard in the classroom and equally as hard in softball," Esemplare said. "She is a great leader for the other girls to follow, and it's been a blessing to coach her."

One other note about Rudisill's softball ability: As a junior, she didn't make a single error.

It appears she hasn't dropped the ball in determining her path into the future.