A game that Avery Mercer has played for half of her life took her to a major moment last week.
As part of a joint signing ceremony, Mercer signed a scholarship to play softball at Georgia Military College. The ceremony was held last Wednesday and also included Mattie Mentel and Chloe Middlebrooks, two of Mercer’s fellow seniors at Oconee County High School.
Mercer began playing softball when she was 9 years old. Right away, she knew the game would be an integral part of her life for years to come.
“I've always had a passion for it,” Mercer said. “Ever since I stepped on a field, I've loved playing softball.”
That love for the game carried Mercer through her high school career and, next summer, it will carry her to the college level.
Mercer had offers from a few other places.
What separated GMC, led by head coach Ashley Bunn, was that it offered the complete package for Mercer.
“I stepped on campus and it felt like home,” Mercer said. “I love Coach Ashley and her coaching style and everything about the campus. I love the girls. It's just really cool.”
Mercer enjoyed individual and team success during her final year with the Lady Warriors.
Oconee reached the Final Four round of the Class AAA state playoffs. That gave the program three trips to Columbus, the site of the Elite Eight and beyond, in four years.
The Lady Warriors won the Region 8-AAA title before the lengthy playoff run, too.
Oconee head coach Zack Graham said during last week’s ceremony that the team would have not reached such high levels of success without Mercer’s work at the plate and at first base.
“Nothing gets by this one,” Graham said, gesturing toward Mercer. “She's the best first baseman I've ever coached. Great stick, lots of power, lots of great upside for this one. I'm looking forward to seeing what she does at GMC.”
This year, Mercer recorded the third-most hits on the Oconee team with 25. Three of those hits were doubles and two were home runs.
Mercer packed some production into those base knocks, too. She totaled 15 runs batted in.
Her batting average ended at .305 while here on-base percentage stood at .367. Mercer had a .415 slugging percentage and a .781 OPS.
Defensively, Mercer was among the Lady Warriors’ very best.
She saw plenty of action as the team’s first baseman. Her 229 total chances and 220 putouts were easily the most on the team. Mercer had just one error the entire season.
The senior first baseman had one of the top fielding percentages on the team, finishing at .996.
“I'm very proud of me and my teammates,” Mercer said when reflecting on her time with the Oconee program. “We made it to Columbus three out of four years, me and my other seniors. We all fought for our spot and I'm really proud of all of us and our accomplishments.”
Now, though, Mercer has her sights set on the next step.
Mercer is undecided on what she will study, but she intends to enter college as a biology major.
The OCHS cafeteria was filled with friends, family members, coaches and other supporters for all three softball signees last Wednesday. Mercer was surrounded by family and had her parents and siblings right next to her as she signed her scholarship papers.
For Mercer, it meant a lot seeing such a large crowd support her during the celebration.
“It's amazing,” Mercer said. “It's always fun to know how many people are supporting you, especially at times like these. Everybody comes together and you see how many people are behind you and what you do.”
As for the moment she put pen to paper, Mercer said it was something she will never forget.
“It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders,” she said. “I have never felt anything like it. I'm so excited to go to Milledgeville next year.”