Gordon Lee senior Gracey Kruse is a big-time softball player, but she's also a small-town girl who enjoys the comforts and familiarity of home.
Which makes her the perfect fit for the hometown Chattanooga Mocs.
One of the state's top talents, regardless of classification, Kruse made it official this past Friday as she signed her letter of intent to play for Coach Frank Reed nearly two years after making a verbal commitment to the program.
"It's exciting and it's a relief," Kruse said. "I'm finally getting everything done and now I can just look forward to being there. It's the next step."
An outstanding athlete who plays multiple sports in Chickamauga, Kruse will go down as arguably the greatest everyday player in the Lady Trojans' storied history, at least from an offensive perspective.
She burst onto the scene as a freshman, hitting .404 with nine homers out of the No. 9 spot in the order. The nine round-trippers were at the time a Gordon Lee single-season record and a a career record.
From there, Kruse took off. She batted .528 as a sophomore and .521 as a junior as she added to her career homerun and RBI records. This past fall, she raised the bar even higher, hitting .581 to go with eight homers and 43 RBIs. She also collected 17 doubles, four triples, scored 50 runs, stole 17 bases, had an on-base percentage of .653 and a slugging percentage of 1.108.
She finished her Gordon Lee career with program records for batting average (.509), homers (30) and RBIs (205), although her single-season homerun record was eclipsed by teammate Paxton Grimes in the state championship game.
Those offensive numbers earned her four All-Region selections and what will surely be a fourth All-State honor and third as a first team selection later this year. She is also the odds-on favorite to win Class A Player of the Year honors for a second straight time and she leaves Gordon Lee with four Region 6-A titles, three state championships and one state runner-up trophy.
She cited location as the main reason for picking the NCAA Division I Mocs over the other offers she had.
"It was close to home and I didn't want to go far away," she explained. "I still wanted to be involved in things with my family, so that was one of the biggest reason I chose to go to UTC."
She said she wants to have an impact on her new program from day one.
"I hope I can help them out in any way possible, depending on what Coach Reed needs me to do," she added. "I just want to be able to help out however I can."
Kruse said she is considering a degree in Fine Arts and perhaps a career as a graphic designer.