LONE GROVE — One quality that Lone Grove senior Raley Long sought through the recruiting process was to seek out a college softball program that promoted a family-like atmosphere.
The best impression that she got from any college came last June when she met East Central University softball coach Destini Anderson and the rest of the Lady Tigers’ coaching staff on an official visit. On June 11, 2015, Long committed to play softball the Lady Tigers. Monday, she made her intentions official during a signing ceremony in the Lone Grove High School library.
“The coaches really cared about you as a person and what is going on with you,” Long said.
Family is something that Long will have when she arrives on the Ada campus. Her brother Jazper is a junior at East Central, which Long said will ease the transition. Plus, about 10 of her friends from Lone Grove will be ECU students.
Concluding a great three-year stretch of softball last fall for Lone Grove, Long played a key role in a Lady Horns lineup that was full of talented players.
This past fall, she posted a .390 batting average to go along with 36 RBIs, three home runs and a .439 on-base percentage. On Oct. 8, 2014, in the midst of postseason play, she broke Amy Robbins’ single-season record for RBIs, a mark Robbins had set in 1997.
Over the last three years, the Lady Horns have a combined record of 85-27 — Lone Grove made an appearance in the state tournament during Long’s junior season.
“She worked so hard at it and spent so much time at it to perfect her skills,” Lone Grove coach Jimmy Miller said of Long. “She’s a great player and always has been a great player for us. It’s very exciting to see her continue her career at East Central.”
One person that Long thanked for her development was her travel coach Scott Gallagher.
“He’s transformed me into the player that I am today,” she said. “I definitely wouldn’t be here today without him. I’m really thankful for him.”
Long, a second baseman, was told by the East Central coaches that she will compete for playing time in the outfield — a position that she hasn’t played since she was a freshman at Lone Grove.
“Their infield is kind of old with juniors and seniors,” she said. “So, I’m going to play outfield for a couple of years and then I’ll probably switch back to the infield. But if I stay in the outfield, that’s fine. I just like to play.”
A large crowd witnessed Long’s signing Monday.
“It’s really encouraging to know that I have this many people supporting me,” she said. “It’s been so awesome. It’s flown by so quick. It seems like yesterday when I was a little freshman. Now, I’m a senior and I’ll never play for them again. I’m going to miss playing for them because I’m going to miss all of those girls and my coaches.”