It's been an amazing run for Heritage six softball seniors and, on Wednesday, half of that class signed their names to national letters of intent to continue their playing careers.
Outfielder Bailey Davis is headed to Swainsboro to join the East Georgia State Bobcats of the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association, third baseman Bailey Christol will next play in Carrollton for the University of West Georgia in the Gulf South Conference, while pitcher Rachel Gibson is ACC-bound with the Clemson Tigers.
All three signed before family, friends and teammates at a ceremony in the school's theater.
"When you look at the individual marks they've left with this program, it's unbelievable to think about," head coach Tanner Moore said. "All of the accomplishments, the records and the leadership, how they carried themselves as athletes, leaders and students, it's just really tough to find any type of flaw with any of them, and not just these three, but our whole senior class.
"When you put that together as a whole, sometimes, with a little bit of luck, you get what they are leaving as a class...three straight state (fastpitch) titles, something that only eight programs in GHSA history have ever done since the inception (of the sport). It's unbelievable to think about that."
Bailey Davis was a Region 7-AAAA honorable mention selection this past season when she hit .314 with four doubles, two triples, 26 RBIs and 22 runs scored. She hit .221 in her first season with the team as a junior, but came through with seven doubles, three triples, a pair of homeruns, 19 runs scored and was tied for third on the team with 22 RBIs.
She will forever be remembered for her catch and subsequent throw home from right field that began the triple play that beat Marist and gave the Generals a second consecutive state title in 2019.
Davis said she was happy to get to be one of those high school players that gets a chance to go on and compete at next level.
"It means a lot and it means I get to continue my softball career, so that's really nice," she said. "I like the coach (at East Georgia State) and the program is really fun. I also like the size of the school and it sets me up for what I want to do in the future job-wise, not just college and softball."
Davis said she loved and will miss the fun family atmosphere and competitive winning nature surrounding the Heritage program and that she plans to bring offense and defense to the Bobcat program.
"I'm just going to be a hard-working person that will help others become the best they can become," she added.
Moore said Davis, better know as "Utah" for the state she lived in prior to coming to Heritage, made a big impression on him the first day he met her in the second semester of her sophomore year, months before becoming a member of the Generals' softball team.
"They were in the counselor's office and right when I walked in, she stood up, looked me straight in the eye and shook my hand," he said. "Normally, a sophomore or a teenager wouldn't carry themselves that way, but her maturity is second-to-none. She's very nice, but she's also a competitor, and she fit in perfectly with the class she was in.
"She took hold of right field for us and never let it go. She was consistent and you didn't have to worry because you knew exactly what you were getting out of her every single day. That's a coach's dream, to be honest, and I'm so proud of her. East Georgia is getting a really good player."
Davis plans to study forensic science.
Christol gave the Generals an aggressive leadoff hitter and leaves the program in the top five all-time Heritage softball history in career batting average, hits, walks, stolen bases, doubles and runs scored.
A career .400 hitter, she hit a career-best .427 as a senior with six doubles, two triples, 15 RBIs, 39 runs scored and 10 stolen bases to earn a first team All-Region nod for the second straight season. Christol was second team as a freshman and a sophomore.
She added 30 career doubles, 73 RBIs, 66 stolen bases, 147 runs scored and one memorable grand slam homer as a freshman. Christol also will go down in Heritage lore for her two-out hustle double in the bottom of the seventh inning that set her up to score the winning run on a Riley Kokinda single to gave the Generals their first-ever state championship in 2018.
"I'm so excited that's it over and I've been officially accepted and am going to West Georgia," she said. "I don't have to worry about any (potential) coaching changes that happen to some (high school) players. It's finally set in stone and I'm really excited about it."
Christol played mostly second and third base while at Heritage, but said she is willing and able to play any position her new team needed her to play.
"I'm still going be a slapper and I'll (hit) wherever they need me in the lineup," she began. "I played infield all through high school with just a little bit of outfield my freshman year, but wherever they need me in the field is where I'll play. If they even need me to play catcher, I'll do it. Just whatever the team needs."
"Bailey has super, super athletic ability," Moore explained. "She can stand in there and hit and it's really cool to watch her because I did some lessons with her when she was in middle school, before I knew I was coming back to Heritage as head coach, so I got to see her before I came back (to the school). Just to see her ability and what she does, it's scary.
"She can power-slap, but she has the speed she needs to (bunt) or soft-slap as well. That's something that very unique and rare and if a college is able to find a player like that and develop them even more, she becomes an All-American type player for them.
"I'm excited to see her at West Georgia. I know the Gulf South Conference very well, having coached at Lee (University). She's going into a great conference that plays great softball and she'll play for a great program down there."
Christol plans to major in biology and hopes to eventually transfer to a physical therapist program.
As far as decorated players go, few in the history of northwest Georgia have the resume that Gibson will take with her to Clemson.
The flame-throwing right-hander will leave Heritage holding virtually every pitching record the school keeps track of, including career wins (68), season ERA (0.74 in 2020) and career ERA (1.20 in 494 innings pitched), single-season strikeouts (303 in 2019) and career strikeouts (847).
Already a two-time Class AAAA Pitcher of the Year and the heavy favorite to make it three in a row later this year, Gibson was the 6-AAAA Co-Pitcher of the Year as a freshman and had the title all to herself the past three seasons.
And while she had very limited plate appearances this past season, Gibson had her share of big hits for the Generals over the past four seasons, finishing with a .326 career average to go with 18 doubles, four triples, 14 home runs and 67 RBIs.
"It's just such a relief," said Gibson, who plans to major in biology and hopes one day to enroll in veterinary school. "I know I've been verbally committed (for a year), but there's just something different about (making it official). It's just so good to finally sign my name on paper to say I'm committed to this and this only. It's just such a great honor to finally be able to sign."
Gibson said she plans to continue to work hard at the next level to hone her craft.
"Every pitcher is different and when I go to Clemson, I'm going to be different than the (pitchers) they have now and the ones they are bringing in," she said. "Honestly, all I can do when I get there is just work on getting better because it is going to be a higher level of softball."
"Watching her grow over these last four years is just one of the most impressive things I've seen," Moore began. "There's not many generational or career type of players, but Rachel is one of them and you feel very lucky to have coached a player like that.
"She showed amazing leadership. When times were tough, she wanted the ball and she asked for it. The growth and maturity in her mental game since her freshman year has been amazing. It's scary to think where she is right now and if she continues that trend, I think I might be going out to Oklahoma City and watching her (in the NCAA Women's College World Series) one day."
Moore said, more than anything, he was proud of the people the trio had become and that he was excited to know they had all found schools that was best for each of them.
"They found their fit with their colleges and that's the main thing we talked about," he added. "It doesn't have to just be about softball. It should be about the school, what you want to study, and so forth. All three found exactly what they wanted and they're going to be able to study as students and student-athletes. It's going to be memorable to go watch them play."