Kelsey Neal, a four-year starter for Miami High School, will be joining the softball program at NCAA Division III Washington University in Saint Louis.

“I really liked the campus and the girls on the team were nice,” said Neal, the daughter of Chuck and Ann Neal. “They say the coach (Leticia Pineda-Boutte´)  is like a mother. It’s a great academic school.”

Washington posted a 27-13 record in 2009, including a 7-1 mark in the University Academic Association. It finished third in the Midwest Regional at Indianola, Iowa.

“It’s a great program and a very prestigious college,” Miami coach Rusty Mercer said. “The academic requirements are unbelievable. It fits her perfect because of the academic success she’s had — and she gets to go play softball.”

Because the school stresses academics over athletics, “you never have to miss a class for a game … I really liked that,”  said Neal, who is undecided on a major.

“Not only are we losing a very good pitcher, but we’re losing a very good bat in the lineup,” Mercer said. “That is going to be a big concern.”

Neal hit in the middle of the Lady Wardog lineup all four years and she’s been the leading hitter the past three. This past season, she hit.429.

She also led the team in RBIs, Mercer said.

In the circle, Neal was 25-9 with a 1.42 earned run average.

Washington University, founded in 1853, has two principal campuses on the western edge of St. Louis separated by Forest Park, site of the 1094 World’s Fair and one of the nation’s largest metropolitan parks.

NCAA Division III consists of colleges and universities that choose not to offer athletically related financial aid.