New Franklin senior softball player Grace Hundley had several reasons for wanting to attend Central Methodist University in Fayette.
Although Hundley has been a starter for the Lady Bulldogs the last three years, she said Wednesday after signing a letter of intent with the Lady Eagles that she chose CMU because of their student to teacher ratio and of their great nursing program. Of course, Hundley said she also wanted to play softball and knew CMU has had a great program for years.
If the next four years are any indication of the last four years for Hundley, the Lady Eagles may have landed a diamond in the rough.
While playing both shortstop and catcher for New Franklin, Hundley was second only in hitting for the Lady Bulldogs behind teammate Madison Matney with a .405 clip. She also had 30 hits in 74 at-bats with a team-leading 22 singles, six doubles, one triple, one home run and nine runs batted in. In addition, Hundley scored 21 runs on the season and finished with an on-base percentage of .443 and a slugging percentage of .554.
For her career, Hundley finished with a .363 average with 110 hits in 342 at-bats with 86 singles, 14 doubles, eight triples, two home runs and 81 RBIs. Hundley also scored 95 runs and  had 37 stolen bases and 32 walks. Her career on-base percentage was .418 while her slugging percentage was .482.
CMU softball coach Pat Reardon said it’s always good to have people from this program in the area to get area schools involved.
“Obviously it’s a little different relationship with Grace,” Reardon said. “I have known her since she was a baby so she is kind of like part of family for me. Avery grew up with her in pre-school and Wendy watched him. It’s always a tough recruiting process because you don’t want to push, but I think it was a good fit.
“She really like our academic side and she wants to be a nurse and that’s No. 1 for us. She’s got some versatility, too. Obviously she has played shortstop and caught for Ross. I think she is going to know the program and what we expect of her but she is realistic and I think she knows she is going to have to work really hard to play and keep her grades up and that’s what is going to be important.”
New Franklin softball coach Ross Dowell said Hundley is one of those kids you like because she can play so many different positions.
“Grace was a utility player for us who we could move around,” Dowell said. “This year she caught everything but three games and batted lead off the last two years. She is one that leads by example and not by maybe vocal, but I think catching has brought her out of that. She was kind of the quarterback on the field and she got to lead some pitchers this year and be very patient with them and it kind of shows the quality of player she is going to be. I’m excited she gets to go play four more years, that’s what she wanted to do and playing for Pat obviously I will get to coach her and help out for another four years so that always makes it fun. I am just happy for her and her family.”
While earning all-conference, all-district and academic all-state three years running, Hundley also picked up two All-Region awards for her play on the field.
Of course Hundley knows to play at the next level, she will need to improve on her hitting and just overall fielding.
“I need to prepare for the intensity and athleticism of the general collegiate athlete and work hard to get better,” Hundley said.
Hundley also had numerous highlights throughout her career at New Franklin. While starting out at a young age in intramural sport as a little girl in kindergarten, Hundley said she has competed since the third grade in school and competitive teams but mainly stuck to the school team since she reached high school.
She said the highlight of her career as an individual would have to be just being part of a great group of people, who she considers to be sisters and under a great coach and assistant coaches. A team highlight of her career, she said, would be winning districts as a junior.
Hundley said she also had thoughts about attending other schools than CMU. She said she applied to the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg and even thought about Mizzou in Columbia but decided that a smaller school would be a better fit.
“I’ve been in New Franklin my whole life, so CMU has been in my backyard since I was little,” Hundley said. “They’ve watched me play, and we’ve recently talked seriously about my future with their program and how we can benefit each other. I’m going to miss all the people I’ve deeply connected with and the coaches I’ve seen as mentors and role models.”
As for short and long term goals, Hundley said her short term goals would be to get used to being a college student and college athlete and find her place on the team and learn from the more experienced players on the team. As for long term goals, she said it would be to gain experience as a player and have a positive impact on the team as a whole. Another goal, she said, would be to get a national title.
Of course none of this would be possible without the help of Hundley’s sister, Aly. “Aly was the biggest influence on my softball career,” Hundley said. “I’d always try to better myself to be as good or even better than her. She always pushed me to work harder and was always willing to work with me fielding and working out.”
Despite numerous awards both individual and team, Hundley said making it to state would have been a dream come true in high school.