The summer was a grind for Bailey Lacy.

But it was all worth it.

The culmination off all the hard work and time on the mound paid off Monday afternoon as the Thomas More Prep-Marian senior inked a national letter of intent with Highland Community College to play softball next year.

“This last summer was really crazy with going to all the tournaments, the exposure tournaments and everything like that,” Lacy said. “Then I had to decipher through all the options and finally come to a conclusion.”

Her conclusion was Highland was the perfect fit and a program that can help her get to the next level.

“My sister’s best friend played there, and I’ve been in contact with them for a long time,” Lacy said. “I just like the way their program runs and the successes they’ve had really stood out to me. And the percentage of athletes that they place after is one of the main things.”

Lacy has been a mainstay on the mound for the Monarchs since her freshman season — the second season after the program was resurrected.

“She came in as a freshman and had to be a varsity pitcher,” said TMP coach Melissa Schoepf. “She and Alison (Helget) would pitch to each other, and she’s been our No. 4 hitter since her freshman year. She’s filled that role, and she’s responded the way she needed to. I’m very appreciative of everything she’s done for us.”

Lacy has had stellar seasons at the plate as the Monarchs' cleanup hitter. Last season, she hit .338 with two home runs, 22 RBI and 14 runs scored.

But it’s on the mound where Lacy has stood out. She went 8-2 as a junior, with only 14 earned runs and 10 walks compared to a team-high 104 strikeouts. Her 1.470 earned-run average was best on the team.

That’s where she’ll be at home for Highland as well.

“It was kind of interesting because my mom ran track in college and my sister runs track in college,” Lacy said. “I kind of enjoyed doing something different. Right when I got into middle school, I knew it was my strong point and what I wanted to do.”

Lacy has been a part of a team that has reached the Class 3A state tournament the past two seasons.

“She’s been a staple in all the success we’ve had the last couple of years,” Schoepf said. “She’s been a leader for us and will continue to be a huge leader for us this year. She’s worked very hard, and she’s very coachable. She’s done whatever we’ve asked her to do and filled in at roles. She’s filled that role since her freshman year, and every year she’s gotten better and stronger. I expect she’ll do great things.”

Now that the signing is done, Lacy can relax, she said.

“I’m really excited, and it’s been a long journey,” she said. “Just to know what I’m going to do is just a sigh of relief.”

All that’s left is to hopefully make a return trip to state before her high school career ends.

“It’s been really fun, and this year will be really different not having Alison alongside me like I had the last three years,” Lacy said. “But knowing we do have a strong backbone on knowing what to do and that we do have a strong program now will really help us. It’s been great for me the last three years and hopefully four.”