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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Hunter inks with McKendree

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Madrid County Central softball player Samantha Hunter recently signed a letter of intent to play softball for McKendree University. Present for the signing was, front row, from left: Tim Hunter, father; Samantha Hunter; Kim Hunter, mother; (back row) Steve Rogers, NMCC softball coach and Thomas Drummond, NMCC middle school principal.
NEW MADRID -- Playing softball only in the spring sometimes makes it hard to get noticed by colleges, but that didn't stop New Madrid County Central's Samantha Hunter.

The NMCC standout spent her weekends playing on local teams like Heartland Pride and the Heartland Travelers and in the process has earned a scholarship to play for the McKendree University Bearcats.

"We're happy for her," said NMCC softball coach Steve Rogers. "She's been a four-year starter for us and a good leader. She's been steady defensively and hit over .500 the last three years. It is well-deserved."

Hunter, along with fellow Lady Eagle seniors Kelly Robey who has signed at Union University and Courtney Masterson, dominated spring softball during their time at NMCC, finishing with a four-year record of 58-4. However, it was in the summer on travel teams where Hunter's career began to flourish.

"Summer ball has basically built my entire softball career," Hunter said. "It is every weekend, every Wednesday with tournaments, games and doubleheaders. I've had a few different offers from other schools but McKendree was the one that I wanted."

Hunter said that NMCC middle school principal and local softball umpire Thomas Drummond was instrumental in getting her into the summer softball scene.

"Mr. Drummond helped get me on the Heartland Pride team and since I've been on that team it has been an awesome experience," Hunter said. "My summer ball coaches, if it wasn't for them I wouldn't have this at all."

Once Hunter began playing on the Heartland Pride, coached by Terry McClard, and the Heartland Travelers, coached by Ben Proffer Jr., it didn't take long for colleges to take notice.

One of those who noticed was a scout for McKendree, who after seeing Hunter at an Exposure Tournament, passed along her name to Bearcat coach Evelyn Bean.

"When I went up and visited (McKendree) on Preview Day we went and talked to (Coach Bean) and she gave me the offer," Hunter said. "It was pretty awesome. I was surprised."

Hunter chose McKendree over schools like Shawnee Community College, Lyons College and several others.

"They're a very well-rounded school and they have a JV too so I'm not just going to sit on the bench for two years and then hopefully get to play on varsity," Hunter said.

McKendree, located in Lebanon, Ill., just 25 minutes from downtown St. Louis, is no stranger to success in softball. Under Bean, who has coached the Bearcats for 13 seasons, McKendree has been to the NAIA Softball National Championship Tournament three times, including a fifth place finish in 1999. They have also won three American Midwest Conference regular season championships and two AMC tournament championships. This past season, the Bearcats finished with a 26-21 record

Hunter, who played third base for NMCC, plans to play outfield for the Bearcats.

"I was built around third and everything is second nature there, but outfield is where I can really make some plays," Hunter said.

Rogers said the switch in position should be a smooth one for Hunter.

"With the travel ball in the summer she's played outfield and I don't think she'll have any problem at all," Rogers said. "She's got a good strong throwing arm and decent speed and I think she'll be a good outfielder for them.

"(Samantha) was a big part of our success and I think she'll do well."