SOFTBALL: Ringgold's Kaylee Womack inks with burgeoing DII power

On hand to watch Ringgold's Kaylee Womack (seated, center) sign her softball letter of intent with the University of North Georgia were Ringgold High Principal J.R. Jones, Ringgold girls' basketball head coach Margaret Stockburger, Katie and Lebron Womack, Ringgold assistant softball coach Jan Nayadley and Ringgold High Athletic Director Robert Akins. On the back row is Ringgold girls' basketball assistant coach Brad Gray, Ringgold assistant softball coach Jessica Duncan, Ringgold head softball coach Daniel Hackett, Lee Shell, Victor Duggard, Tori Clemmons and Ringgold Middle School softball coach Summer Garrison. (Photo by Scott Herpst)

One of the top softball talents in north Georgia will be playing next year at North Georgia.

The University of North Georgia in Dahlonega will be the next stop for Kaylee Womack after the Ringgold High standout signed a letter of intent to play for the Nighthawks on Wednesday.

"This feels unreal," said Womack, surrounded by a room full of family, friends, coaches and well-wishers. "I don't feel like I should be this old and getting ready to do this, but I'm ready for this new chapter in my life to start."

Womack, who has played softball since the age of four, thought her career might have come to an end last year when she suffered a knee injury. However, she was able to rehab the knee in time to play her entire senior season without a problem.

Womack called the injury "terrifying".

"For a minute there I was thinking the worst," she explained. "I thought I would never get to play softball again. It was a life-changing experience and I wouldn't want anybody to have to go through that because it's very difficult.

"But I couldn't have gotten through it without the support of my family and friends. I went to rehab and just worked really hard. I hit the weights hard almost every day and I was able to come back a month early."

Womack led the Lady Tigers with a .373 average and nine doubles this past fall, adding two triples and one homerun.

"(North Georgia) is getting power, smarts and just an all-around great player. They couldn't ask for anything better," Ringgold head coach Daniel Hackett said. "She's been a leader from us since day one."

Womack played multiple positions for the Lady Tigers in her prep career, including third base and shortstop. She finished her senior season at catcher, though she will most likely play in the infield in college.

"We didn't lose a step no matter where we put her because she's such an amazing athlete," Hackett added. "She can do a lot of things."

Womack had originally committed to a different school as a freshman, but reopened her recruitment due to a coaching change.

"That really opened up all my options and the coach at North Georgia wanted me to come up for a visit," she recalled. "I didn't even consider it at first, but once I got there and took one step on campus, I fell in love with it. I love the scenery, the people and the atmosphere. It was beautiful and I knew that even if I didn't play any sports there, I still would want to go to school there."

She added that she wanted to be a part of the athletic tradition they are building at the school.

"The one thing I really love about it is that all the athletes support all the other athletes in different sports," she said. "It's just amazing to see that support from everybody."

Hackett added that the school and the softball program was getting a "phenomenal" person.

"You just see her work ethic and determination to succeed," the coach added. "She finds something she loves and she just goes after it."

Womack plans to study criminology with forensics in college and is considering becoming a criminal profiler.

UNG has won four straight Peach Belt Conference championships and went 48-13 last season, advancing to the NCAA Division II Southeast Super Regionals before losing to Armstrong Atlantic. The Nighthawks have made 10 consecutive appearance in the Division II Regionals.