Ceres High grad Mahlena O'Neal contributed as a true freshman with the University of Georgia softball team this past spring.
"I feel like my overall performance could have been better and that's why I'm working so hard this summer to become the best player I can," she said.
Mahlena competed in 31 of the Bulldogs' 58 games.
She missed parts of the season with a broken finger and a knee injury.
"It was pretty tough not to be out there but that kept me focused on getting better," O'Neal said.
Mahlena batted .235 from the plate on the season with one homer, six doubles, 13 RBIs, seven runs, eight walks and one stolen base while splitting playing time at catcher and designated hitter.
"The most challenging part was adjusting to the level of pitching from high school to the Division-I level," she said.
O'Neal and 25th-ranked Georgia competed in the 2017 NCAA Division-I Women's Softball Championship Tournament.
The Bulldogs (35-23) finished in second place with a 2-2 record in the Tallahassee Regional.
Georgia lost 8-5 to No. 4 Florida State in the championship game.
Mahlena batted 3-for-11 from the plate with one double, two RBIs, one run and two walks during Regional play.
She started all four games at catcher.
"The most enjoyable part was watching the intensity step up on a whole different level due to it being postseason and just battling with my teammates," O'Neal said.
Former Ceres High teammate and longtime friend Nicole "Sis" Bates also played in the NCAA Tournament.
She started at second base for Washington, which claimed Regional and Super Regional titles en route to advancing to the Women's College World Series (WCWS).
The sixth-seeded Huskies lost 5-2 to eventual runners-up/top-seeded Florida in the semifinals.
Bates helped guide Washington to a 50-14 overall record.
"The thought of both of us being here is surreal," O'Neal said. "We knew it was coming but it actually happening and becoming reality is just amazing."
Mahlena graduated from Ceres High in 2016.
O'Neal filled a major role in leading the Bulldogs' varsity softball program to 85 victories, one section championship, three Western Athletic Conference titles and four playoff appearances.
She was selected to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Super Elite Second Team and Medium Schools First Team her senior year.
She earned FloSoftball Second-Team All-American honors.
She was voted WAC Most Valuable Player.
In 113 career games with Ceres High, Mahlena batted .462 (171-for-370) with 21 home runs, five triples, 37 doubles, 147 RBIs and 50 runs.
She struck out just 15 times.
O'Neal is looking forward to her sophomore year at Georgia.
The Bulldogs will be vying for their 17th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament next spring.
"We are a very, hard-working team and this next year we'll be 100 percent better," Mahlena said. "Our team expectation is to scrap and fight every game and to give our all no matter what."