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Lexi Winters is a Gamecock at heart and explains why moving to South Carolina is a “dream come true.”

She had a feeling the call would come at some point, but she had no idea when.

Lexi Winters was home in Lexington having dinner with her family and boyfriend at Carolina Wing's, so she surely wasn't going to get a call, right?

Wrong. She had just sat down in the restaurant for a few minutes and was about to order when the call came. It was Ashley Chastain.

“Then I was like, 'I've got to go.' So I ran outside,” Winters told GamecockCentral. “And she's obviously explaining everything that's happening. And she's kind of putting out feelers for me to consider the possibility or the chance that I might leave, and I start crying. I was crying and giggling and then crying.

“One of our family friends was out at the time and saw me on the phone. He asked, 'Is Lexi OK?' And then my parents said something like, 'Well, if she's giggling, that's a good sign.'”

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After hanging up, Winters ran back inside, feeling a million emotions rush through her at once. This was what she had hoped for. A chance to come home and play for her dream school. It was all coming true.

“I just shake my head and say 'yes.' And then my parents just open their arms. I hugged them and my boyfriend. It was like, 'Oh my God, I get to come home,'” Winters said.

Winters was offered the opportunity to play at South Carolina for Chastain, who is entering her first year as head coach of the program's softball team. And for Winters, it was a decision she really didn't have to think about for long. Basically an instant yes. She called it “a dream come true for me.”

Winters, who played catcher for Charlotte the past two seasons, officially joined the Gamecocks on June 16. She will come to Columbia as the reigning American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

But to understand why the choice was so easy, you have to know where she came from. Winters is a local. She lives with her family in nearby Lexington and attended White Knoll High School, so this will undoubtedly be a homecoming for her.

“I was kind of born and raised in Gamecock country,” Winters said. “Especially softball, we went to every softball game we could get to at USC. Anytime my parents had a chance to take me to Beckham Field, they took me.”

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When Winters was just a little girl, she got the chance to play as Batgirl for South Carolina for a few games. Her parents saw an ad for the role and quickly signed her up for it, knowing how much she already loved softball.

“I just went up there and they did a little tour of the stadium. They had to walk me through the whole back entrance to get to the dugout,” she said. “And when I was 11 years old, that was the biggest thing in my life. But they got me Gamecocks softball shirts, and I have a whole bunch of pictures from the two times I was Batgirl. … I went to every single game I could go to. And I went to every single camp I could go to since I was 7 years old when I started playing. I've always been a Gamecock fan. I went to Gamecock volleyball, always went to the football games. But yeah, I was born and raised in Gamecock country.”

Now she can live out her childhood dream of playing on the same court as the players she idolized as a child, including Carrie Lyons, who was the first person Winters called after things turned around for her.

“She was my catcher's coach from the time I started playing softball until I got to high school before I went to Charlotte. And she was a catcher on the team. She was on the 1997 team that won the Women's College World Series,” Winters said. “She just said, 'You get to stand on the same home base as me.' I think I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I'll be in the same position as her, and I've looked up to her almost my whole life. Just being able to think about me standing behind home base, in the same spot as her, is just unbelievable. It makes me so happy.”

Anna Harden

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