COVINGTON, Ga. — A coaching change at Kennesaw State turned out to be a gift for the University of North Georgia’s softball program.
That gift to UNG came in the personage of Eastside junior pitcher Kailey Rusk.
Rusk, formerly pledged to Kennesaw State, switched her commitment to UNG, and let Twitter know about it Wednesday.
Things began to change for Rusk when former KSU coach Pete D’Amour left the program to take the Virginia Tech job last May. That paved the way for Tripp MacKay to be named D’Amour’s successor. Rusk felt the change was a good time to consider exploring her recruiting possibilities once again.
“Yes, I was committed to KSU, but then there was that coaching change, and I decided to open up my options and (head) coach, (Mike) Davenport contacted me,” Rusk said.
Davenport has been at North Georgia for 21 years in some capacity, including 19 years at the helm of the softball program. During that time, Davenport has gone 815-270, including leading the Nighthawks to seven 50-win seasons, en route to building one of the nation’s most consistent and premier NCAA Division II softball programs.
It was that proven track record by both coach and program that made North Georgia a no-brainer choice for the standout pitcher.
“I knew it was the right school as soon as I visited,” Rusk said. “The decision was not tough at all. Coach Davenport is a great coach and such a good guy. He made my decision really easy.”
Based on the way Rusk has played during her three year career at Eastside, as well as a standout stint on the travel ball circuit, it was most likely an easy decision for Davenport and company to pursue Rusk.
Rusk came of age during her sophomore season as she led an unlikely Lady Eagles group to a Region 4-AAAA championship and Elite Eight berth in Columbus. As a junior, she compiled a 10-7 record with 178 strikeouts in 132 innings of work, along with a 1.82 ERA. Rusk was also one of Eastside’s best power hitters.
But even with all that — and now with a more secure college commitment in place — Rusk said she’s not resting on her laurels.
“The biggest thing now is just improving on everything,” she said. “You can’t just sit back and expect to be the best. You have to work for it. So that’s hitting and pitching lessons and lots of practice. It doesn’t stop. There’s always something to improve on.”
Rusk is looking to have a big 2019 season, as Eastside will return most of its talent from a Region 4-AAAA runner-up season that came just short of another trip to Columbus. Rusk said she plans to study exercise science at UNG and then go into physical therapy.