Makayla Mauger signing

Highland High School’s Makayla Mauger signs Thursday at Highland to play softball for Eastern Oregon University.

POCATELLO — As Makayla Mauger listed off the dozens of individuals and companies that have helped her achieve all she has, she kept circling back to one word: community.

It’s the community that worked hard, not just Mauger, she said, and the community that gave her the time and resources she needed to succeed.

So when the Highland High School senior was picking a college to attend, of course community would play a large role.

Mauger found the right fit at Eastern Oregon University and signed a to play softball on scholarship with the Mountaineers on Thursday at HHS.

“It reminds me a lot of home,” Mauger said of the four-year NAIA school in La Grande, Oregon. “It’s a nice community. Everybody gets along. ... Everyone’s behind each other and they’ve got each other’s back. That’s what I like about it.”

Mauger enters her senior season as one of the top players in 5A District 5-6. She was named the league’s player of the year as a junior, when she hit .527 and was the Rams’ go-to pitcher with a 2.80 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings pitched.

Mauger has worked countless hours toward reaching this point. She started playing softball when she was 8 years old. Her father was her first coach.

She’s had many coaches since then, including Rams head coach Tisha Coverdell. She watched Mauger grow up fast — from a junior varsity player as a freshman to a varsity starter the following season — and deems EOU a good fit.

“She’s an extremely hard worker,” Coverdell said. “... I hope (signing) inspires her to keep working to get herself better and not just be happy with where she’s at.”

Mauger will be coached at EOU by Nicole Christian, who was hired in June. Christian was a two-time All-American as a player for the Mountaineers (1997-2000) and ranks first in program history with career totals of 200 hits, 137 RBIs, 321 total bases, 83 walks and an on-base percentage of .486.

“She’s very chill. She likes to listen to music during practice, she likes to have fun,” Mauger said of Christian. “But she definitely loves to get the job done, and I believe that she’s there to train all of us and get us to where we want to be.”

Mauger, as most college-bound athletes do, felt a sense of relieved happiness Thursday. It had been a goal of hers, she said, to play college softball ever since she picked the game up as an 8-year-old.

She hopes to inspire more 8-year-olds like her former self.

But you can’t forget about that one thing: the community.

“They were behind me the whole time,” Mauger said. “Little girls looking up to me and my teammates looking up to me and me looking up to older girls, wanting to be like them. I just think the community had my back the whole time.”