Five players from the state of Georgia were among the eight signees for 2013-14 recently announced by Lee University softball coach Emily Russell.
They are second and third baseman Amber Broome and outfielder Jesse Giles from Harrison High School in Kennesaw, outfielders Frankie Catinella from South Forsyth High in Cumming and Qiley Lewis from Hillgrove High and all-state outfielder and first baseman Annabeth Pruett from Prince Avenue Christian School in Athens.
The other recruits were middle infielder Holley Gray from Lincoln County High in Tennessee, catcher Shelby Gilreath from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and versatile Rachel Polacek from Salem, Ore.
Polacek played outfield, third base, catcher and pitcher for South Salem High, and Russell described her in Lee's announcement release as "a great athlete" and strong hitter strengthened by the high caliber of West Coast competition.
"Coach Russell is an amazing person as well as a coach," Polacek said. "She is like a mom figure to me, which is important since I will be thousands of miles from home. The campus is beautiful and Lee has a reputation for developing excellence in all areas of a person's life."
Gilreath hit .421 with seven home runs and 12 doubles this past season for Calvary Christian Academy and made the Sun-Sentinel & Miami Herald first team. She was a Miracle Sports all-state selection.
"Shelby was a great find for us behind the plate," Russell said. "She has a tremendous amount of athletic ability. She has a very strong arm and is a power hitter."
Gray plays second base for Lincoln County, which has reached state sectionals the last three years, and led the state in homers as a sophomore. She had 12 homers and nine doubles with a .375 average last spring. Then she hit .400 in summer ball.
"Holley is a small but powerful player," Russell said. "She is exciting to watch and plays with a lot of heart and passion."
Broome hit .352 last summer and .424 in her final Harrison season and picked Lee over NCAA Division I schools in Virginia.
"Amber is a very solid defender and hitter. We are looking for her to strengthen our offense with her power, and she is quick on the corner with a strong arm," Russell said, noting her "high level of travel ball."
Giles has played in national tournaments the last six summers and hit .350 with a .470 one-base percentage for the Atlanta Vipers in 2012, and then she batted .360 with five homers, 13 doubles and 30 RBIs for Harrison High.
"Jesse was a great late find for us," Russell said. "She is a great combination of speed and strength."
Catinella played travel ball with Broome and batted .349, and then she was all-region for South Forsyth.
"Frankie is a speedster that we are excited to have on the team," Russell said. "She has played all the outfield positions."
Lewis is another fast outfielder and hit .398 with a .473 on-base percentage this past summer.
"She can both hit and slap at the plate," Russell said. "She makes it look it easy in the outfield and has great range tracking the ball."
The 6-foot Pruett hit .479 with a .593 on-base percentage for Prince Avenue and holds that school's career records for homers, triples, double, walks and OBP. The 4.07 GPA student was all-region for a team that had second- and third-place state finishes.
"We have been watching Annabeth for several years. She really can do it all," Russell said. "She is a very fast and agile player that has great size. She can hit and slap and she plays outfield, infield and is a very good pitcher as well."