Before sealing a deal to play softball at a higher level, Evans High School senior Anna Cheely tipped her cap to a higher power.
The signing ceremony Wednesday at Evans was traditional in most senses - friends, family, coaches and teammates assembled to see Cheely sign a letter of intent to attend Georgia College & State University on a softball scholarship next season.
The pen and paper had to wait until the youth minister from Cheely's church offered a prayer of thanks.
For Cheely, faith is the most significant factor in softball.
"I always wanted to (play in college), but I wasn't sure if I was quite good enough," Cheely said. "Everybody has been telling me that I could. I just had to believe in myself."
Evans High School softball player Anna Cheely (foreground) recently signed to play with Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Ga.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Over time, Cheely found comfort in religion and her ability on the diamond. She kept improving by playing travel ball with the Determinators and prep fast-pitch with the Lady Knights.
"My confidence level just shot up," she said. "I started to believe in myself, that I could actually do it."
Everything came together when Cheely traveled to Milledgeville to try out for the Division II squad.
"At the tryout I was just really focused, something I didn't think could ever happen. I was just hoping it would be the team for me, and it worked out perfectly. I guess it was like a blessing from God."
Cheely was a three-year starter at second base for Evans, and she saved her best for last. As a senior, she led the Lady Knights in hitting (.342 average) and was superb with the glove, posting a .924 fielding percentage.
Those numbers earned Cheely a selection on the Class AAAAA all-state second team, and she also was named the Lady Knights 2002 Most Valuable Offensive Player.
"She continued to get better every year, as far as her stats and her leadership," Evans coach Colette Cassedy said. "She worked hard, and the other girls followed her lead."
Cheely will play fast-pitch this summer with the Dominators travel team. She wants to increase her strength so she can hit for power in college.
Every ounce of energy will be needed to make a mark with GCSU. The Bobcats were ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation this past season and are a title contender in the Peach Belt Conference.
Cheely says her goal is work her way up by hitting, fielding and keeping the faith.
"I just want to play up to my ability, earn my spot on the team and earn respect from everyone," she said.
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