Last Friday was a time of celebration for the Russell County Warriors athletic department. Coaches, administrators, parents, players, and even former players packed the library in anticipation. A table was set up with four sets of different colored balloons, as four student athletes revealed where they would play at the next level. The baseball team had three players sign college scholarships, while the softball team had one player sign to play at the next level.
Head baseball coach, Tony Rasmus, started the festivities by talking about how signing day is the biggest thing the Warriors work hard for everyday. It’s something special when a coach gets to see their players continue their education at the next level. It’s even more special when they can do it at no cost. Rasmus also thanked the parents, saying “Without mom and dad, nobody would be here signing today.”
Before Friday, Rasmus has only had one player sign with Chipola Community College in his coaching career. He had double that number sign with Chipola on Friday. The first player to announce his commitment and sign with the Indians was Zac Rice. Rasmus talked about how important Rice has been to the team and how important he will be this season. He led the team with a .481 batting average, while also pacing the Warriors with 22 stolen bases and 51 runs scored. Rice was just as impressive in the field with a .811 fielding percentage.
The second player to sign with Chipola was Logan Austin, who has been the ace on the mound for the Warriors. Rasmus couldn’t say enough about how important Austin has been to the team. He almost always got the call to go against the opponents’ best pitcher. He routinely got the call to pitch against the opponents’ best hitters. Austin led the team with a 9-1 record on the mound, while boasting an impressive 1.24 earned run average. He also had 154 strikeouts in 79.1 innings pitched in his junior year last year.
The third baseball player to sign a scholarship on Friday was Austin Embry, who Rasmus said is the best catcher that has ever played for him. Embry is the 12th overall Warrior to sign with North Coast Community College. While Embry was impressive at the plate with a .444 batting average and 36 RBI in 38 games, he was most important to the team behind the plate. With a .981 fielding percentage, rarely would a ball get by the catcher. All season, Emby had runners thinking twice about trying to steal on him.
Rasmus had a gleam in his eye when talking about his three seniors. “This group of seniors is the best we have had here at Russell County since our 2013 group. Rice, Austin, and Embry have all been recruited by Division I schools, but made the decision to play in the toughest junior college conference in America, the Florida Panhandle Conference. All three also have a chance to get drafted this spring, as I have been contacted by numerous Major League Baseball clubs. Many of these clubs have run our guys through the tests they do when they are interested in players. It’ll be fun to see if they get drafted this upcoming June. I’m super proud of each one of them, as they’ve put the work in to set themselves up for a chance to play college baseball and potentially get drafted.”
Morgan Smith will continue her softball career at Chattahoochee Valley Community College. Head softball coach, Jessica Hutzul, also had a gleam in her eye when talking about Morgan. She talked about how important Morgan was to her team, how she is a team leader, and the main cog that keeps the team together. Rasmus and Hutzul both spoke of how hard of a worker she is, showing up at 7am every morning to work out with the boys. CVCC head coach Steve O’Steen was also at Smith’s signing. He explained to the crowd how excited he was to get Smith on the team next year. He also told of how her mom was in his first recruiting class at CVCC.
Coaches, parents, administrators, and fans have plenty to be proud of in these four student athletes, as they continue to work hard in their senior year. The hard work and dedication they have displayed and continue to display will take them far in life.