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Chloe Radford considers her Beddingfield High varsity softball career the “best four years of her life.”
But she anticipates an even more exciting immediate future.
Before teammates, family members, coaches, school administrators and friends Thursday afternoon in the school media center, Radford signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her softball career with UNC Pembroke of the NCAA Division II Peach Belt Conference.
“I’m so excited!” exclaimed the daughter of Wendy and Randy Radford of Stantonsburg. “I feel like I’m starting a new journey. I have worked all my life for this year — blood, sweat and tears.”
The 5-foot-9 Radford, who started at shortstop her last three years for the Lady Bruins, originally committed to Norfolk State University but changed her mind.
“Better opportunities (at UNCP),” she explained. “There are bigger things for me to do there; it’s a better fit.
“They are really big on my major (bio-medical engineering); that was eye-catching. The field was magnificent; I love the team and coaches; it’s a great fit like I have here; and the campus was not too far away and not too close.”
The possessor of a 3.8 grade-point average, Radford, age 18, revealed she loves the medical field. She admits she was also influenced by travel-team teammate Alex Watkins of Swansboro, currently a player for the Braves.
After catching and playing shortstop as a freshman, Radford settled into the middle infield. She departs as one of the Lady Bruins career leaders in home runs. She played for three different travel teams and was also a standout in varsity volleyball.
In her senior year, Radford batted a healthy .582 (32 for 55) with five home runs, 27 runs batted in, 25 runs, eight doubles and one triple. She slugged at an eye-popping 1.036 clip and posted a .641 on-base percentage. Radford led the Lady Bruins in batting average, slugging percentage, RBIs, homers, doubles and runs scored.
She is a four-time all-conference performer.
Radford acknowledges her biggest rush is swinging the bat, but maintains perspective.
“Offense scores runs, but defense wins games,” she said with a grin.
She joined the other seniors — Savannah Barberio, Brianna Pate and Cassie Dail — as 2018 captains. Also on Thursday, Barberio signed with North Carolina Wesleyan.
Head coach Jeremy Howard also pointed out Radford is not only a capable catcher but a “stellar” first baseman. She was simply needed at shortstop for his Lady Bruins, who tied for second place in the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference and reached the second round of the playoffs, finishing 17-4.
“She was one of the hardest hitters I’ve coached,” commented Howard, the Lady Bruins head coach for 13 years. “She was a weapon and a big key to what we did. She will be missed.
“UNCP is a great school with great academics. I’ve only heard positive things about the coaches. She brings pop to the lineup and gives them options behind the plate and at first base.”
Radford noted she was recruited as an utility infielder and hints time management may be her biggest challenge. She’s braced for not playing as much at the outset of her UNCP career.
“I have been playing softball since age 6,” Howard remarked. “I know, now, it’s not just a job — it’s a life. But softball is my life. Without it, I probably wouldn’t be the same person.
“As a freshman, I hope to least make some impact, whether on or off the field. I like my sleep, but there are things to do. Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard.”