RICHMOND HILL -- Katie Rearley had two goals for her senior season: she wanted to make the Region 2-6A all-region and she wanted to get the opportunity to play college softball.
The Richmond Hill senior pitcher achieved both of those goals meeting the second Wednesday afternoon when she signed a national letter of intent to play at Mercer University.
And Rearley will waste no time in taking the field for the Bears as she reported to the Macon campus on Thursday thanks to being a mid-year graduate. Mercer opens the season on Feb. 11 at Florida State where it will also face Loyola-Chicago.
Richmond Hill officials believe that while in recent years several players have gone on to play collegiately Rearley is the first softball player in the program’s history to sign with a Division I school.
Mercer is in the Southern Conference and will be playing its first season under Coach Lisa Fico. She was hired last June to take over a team that was 23-24 last year with another 14 games cancelled due to either weather or COVID.
A former University of Florida player Fico has beefed up the Bears schedule which this season will, in addition to its SoCon opponents, have non-conference games with Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Florida State and Auburn.
Mercer hasn’t released its schedule, but Georgia Southern’s schedule shows it playing at Mercer on March 16.
“I didn’t get involved with Mercer until late October,” Rearley said. “Lipscomb and Augusta University were the two main schools recruiting me.
“I’m really happy to be going to Mercer,” Rearley said. “It’s a really good school academically and it’s close enough to home but also far enough away. I’m going to major in pre-law and they have a good law school.”
She will join several other former Wildcats athletes at Mercer. Sophomore Belle Martinez is a goalkeeper on the women’s soccer team, Kenyan Hunter is a freshman safety on the football team and junior Bryant Jackson is a defender in men’s soccer.
Jackson, incidentally, led the Mercer SoCon championship soccer team this past season in minutes played with 1,652 after logging more than 900 his first two seasons. The Bears lost to Wake Forest, 2-1, in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Rearley’s won-loss record is deceiving as she had a 2.22 ERA and a 0.9800 WHIP for a team that finished 15-10 while advancing to the second round of the GHSA Class 6A state playoffs for the third straight year.
Rearley missed her junior season with a shoulder injury and the start of her senior season was delayed by a high ankle sprain.
Once healthy she was all first year Coach Chris Jenkins could hope for as she struck out 157 and walked only 22 in 110.2 innings.
Rearley pitched Richmond Hill to its biggest win of the season when she bested South Effingham and its ace, Bailey Kendziorski, 6-2, in a stunning upset in the semi-finals of the region tournament.
Richmond Hill lost to Effingham County, 2-0, in the championship game but rebounded to sweep Tucker in the first round of the state playoffs as Rearley had back-to-back one-hitters while striking out 28 in 11 innings. She had two no-hitters in the regular season against Bradwell Institute and Brunswick along with four one-hitters.
The Wildcats lost to Dacula in the second round, a team which finished fourth in the state.
“She gave us a chance to win every time she went out there,” Jenkins said. “Any time you can depend on someone who has the ability to be consistent makes it easier. She has a lot of intangibles.
“When she was hurt, she never got down and feeling sorry for herself. She was always working on doing things to make herself better. I look for her to be successful.”