Ellie Hunter has had a wild softball career at Thomas Sumter Academy.
In eighth grade, she was asked to replace Emily DeMonte on the mound for the 2-time defending state champion Lady Generals and responded by helping the team reach their third …
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In eighth grade, she was asked to replace Emily DeMonte on the mound for the 2-time defending state champion Lady Generals and responded by helping the team reach their third consecutive state championship appearance. She pitched nearly every inning.
Now as a senior, spring sports were cancelled due to COVID-19, but that wasn't the only thing getting in her way, as Thomas Sumter didn't have enough players to fill out a roster. Her career would've been cut short either way.
"As a pitcher in eighth grade, she took her team to a state championship finals. A large part of that was the entire team, but here's an eighth-grader on the mound pitching almost every inning of every game," said former Thomas Sumter softball head coach B.J. Reed. "She has just stepped in some amazing situations and shown so much courage, so much strength.
"It was disappointing to know that the legacy that's been built with the softball program, that unfortunately the way things happened we weren't going to have a team, but to see how she didn't allow that to hold her back, that she kept persevering. That says so much about who she is as an individual."
That perseverance was aimed at finding a place to play four more years of softball. Despite missing her senior year, Hunter accomplished that by signing with Columbia College. That opportunity to sign meant a lot after missing her final year of high school softball.
"I'm upset because I've been looking forward to my senior year since I was in eighth grade, but I'm just excited that I get the opportunity to play for four more years," said Hunter.
Hunter is the latest in a long line of Thomas Sumter softball players to make the jump to college softball. In the last six years, a total of seven Lady Generals have played collegiately, starting with the pitcher Hunter replaced on the mound.
"These seven young ladies were able to turn their dream to play college softball into a reality due to their endless hours of hard work and dedication," said Reed. "As well as the hard work and dedication of their coaches, especially Lou DeMonte and Dean Morris, who build a legacy of excellence of the Thomas Sumter program for seven years."
And just like players before her, Reed expects Hunter to thrive at Columbia College.
"I just know at the next level she's only going to blossom there," said Reed. "I'm just so excited for her opportunity because she has just been so dedicated to the sport for such a long time."
Luckily for Hunter, she was deep into the recruiting process before the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools and sports. That meant Hunter had the chance to actually visit Columbia College and fall in love with the school and program in person.
"I was in contact with a couple of coaches before the season even started. I sent them some videos and everything. I was sold on Columbia College," said Hunter. "I went to tour there and the coaches were really nice, the college felt like home and the players were really welcoming."
On top of the softball program, Columbia College was a fit for her education, as she wants to major in speech language pathology.
"Columbia College actually had my major," said Hunter. "So that was one of the reasons I chose them other than their coaches being so welcoming and the players being so welcoming."
At the end of the day, Hunter was just glad all of her years of hard work paid off with a chance to keep playing the sport she loves.
"Just a chance to play and get four more years doing what I enjoy doing the most," said Hunter on what she's most excited about with college softball. "I've been working hard to get this for my whole life, basically."
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