WALESKA — They may not have gone far from home, but Reinhardt softball players Alise Hooks and Autumn Bible are showing just how far their games have come this year.
The sophomores began playing together at Cherokee, and both jumped at the chance to play for a winning college program so close to home.
“I just liked how close it was,” Hooks said. “I knew about all the success they had here, and it was important for me to be on a good team. (Bible) committed first, and it just kind of went from there.”
As much as Bible and Hooks enjoyed the proximity of Waleska to Canton, the relationship has been just as beneficial the other way around.
Sequoyah product Madison Gianfala and Creekview’s Brooke Ramey are also on the Reinhardt roster, and coach Jade Geuther said recruiting local players is one of her top priorities every year.
“Recruiting is easy because of Cherokee County softball,” Geuther said. “There are, obviously, a lot of good players in the area, so that’s where I start. I have good relationships with the coaches, so it’s easy to recruit here.”
As close as Bible and Hooks stayed to the home after helped lead the Lady Warriors to four straight playoff appearances, there were plenty of adjustments to be made to the college game.
“I felt like we were prepared mentally, but maybe not physically,” Bible said. “The speed of the game is just so much faster. Everyone you play against was the best player where she was from. Practices and conditioning are a lot more intense. It was kind of a struggle early on, but it made us better players.”
That transition was eased by the two rooming together, as they were able to share in the challenges of their first collegiate seasons.
“It was good motivation knowing someone else had to get up early and do it with you,” Bible said.
For Hooks, her introduction to the college game went about as smoothly as it could have.
Hooks hit .387 with 46 RBIs and 56 runs scored last season, and while she had to overcome a slow start this year, she has returned to being one of Reinhardt's most productive players with a .422 average, 24 RBIs and 34 runs scored.
“This year, there was more pressure I put on myself,” Hooks said. “That got in the way early in the season, but, as the year has gone on, I’ve been playing loose again, and the numbers have happened.”
Bible took a little longer to crack the every-day lineup.
After totaling just 23 hits in 119 at-bats as a freshman, she has emerged as a key contributor at shortstop this spring, making 30 starts and hitting .295 with 21 RBIs and 15 runs scored.
“It was a big adjustment,” Bible said. “I had it all in my head getting nervous. As the year went on, I learned to stay loose and stay in a good mindset.”
Now, the only thing missing is the team success.
Before the arrival of Hooks and Bible, Reinhardt had won eight straight Appalachian Athletic Conference title from 2010-17. That streak came to an end last year, but the Lady Eagles (23-13, 13-5) are in the hunt again this year, just three games off the conference lead with four regular-season conference games to play.
Hooks and Bible both said they were determined to close that gap and get Reinhardt back to where it belongs.
“It would mean so much to be able to get Reinhardt back on top,” Hooks said. “We have a good team. We just need to put it all together. Overall, when we have good energy, we can win. We just have to bring it every game.”