Two local softball players are taking very different paths now that their playing days at Armstrong State have ended prematurely.
Richmond Hill’s Natalie Corbin will stay at Armstrong as a student, while Bryan County’s Logan Harrell recently signed to continue playing at Georgia Southern.
Armstrong announced in early March it would end its athletics program as part of a planned merger with Georgia Southern.
Corbin said she wants to stay at Armstrong because she likes the school so much.
“I don’t know if I want to go through the hassle of transferring,” she said. “But if I miss softball too much, I’ll have the option to go back and play.”
Because Armstrong won’t field a softball team next year, Corbin’s sitting out will not be considered a “red shirt” year and she would still have three years of eligibility left should she choose to play again.
“I hate to give it up, but I love the school,” she said. “It would be a hard transition.”
Harrell will join her former coach, Kim Dean, in Statesboro. Dean was named GSU’s head coach in June after one season at Armstrong. She has two seasons of eligibility left.
Harrell said she understands Corbin’s decision.
“A lot of us sort of thought we didn’t want to play again,” she said. “I know I didn’t feel like I wanted to play somewhere else. I didn’t think the bonds I’d built at Armstrong could be replaced.”
When the Pirates lost in the semi-finals at the NCAA Division II National Tournament, however, Harrell felt differently.
“After that last game, I realized I wasn’t ready to be done playing,” she said.
Corbin said she came back from two shoulder injuries in high school to achieve her dream of playing college softball, only to see it end after one season.
“What are the odds,” she said. “But softball has taught me a lot of life lessons about overcoming obstacles.”
One of the things Corbin said she enjoyed about her first year at Armstrong was how well the team bonded, especially after learning this would be their final season.
“Usually when you get that many girls together there’s a lot of drama, but it wasn’t the case,” she said. “We were like sisters, even before the announcement.”
After the announcement, Corbin said the team bonded even more.
“We stuck together and were there for each other,” she said. “Any time someone was having a bad day, they had someone to talk to.”
“We were playing for each other, knowing it was our last season together,” she said. “We didn’t talk too much about what would happen next because we didn’t want it to interfere with the games.”
The Pirates’ post-season run is all the more remarkable considering everything the team had to endure. Not only were they playing knowing it was their last season, but they were also playing for a new coach and had lost their fall season to Hurricane Matthew.
This season was the third time in the last five years Armstrong reached the semis of the national tourney. The Pirates ended the season with a record of 38-14.
“The coaches were phenomenal,” Corbin said. “Everyone bonded so well and that made it easy to play well together.”
Harrell said Dean getting the job at Georgia Southern played a big part in her decision.
“I had some other schools I was considering, but I wanted to stay close to home,” she said. “Coach Dean being there played a huge role. I’m glad it all worked out.”
Corbin ended up second on the team in hitting with a .339 average and her 58 hits was tops on the squad. Harrell was right behind her with a .327 batting average and led the team in RBIs with 44.