Jan. 20—MOULTRIE — One day last fall, after cheering from the sidelines for the Colquitt County football team the previous night, Carli Pearson left Moultrie at 5 p.m. for a travel ball softball game in Dalton.
In her first bat for the East Cobb Bullets, Pearson smacked a home run.
That got the attention of a Winthrop University coach who was in the stands.
It wasn't long before the Lady Packer infielder was offered a scholarship to play collegiately for the Eagles.
On Friday, among coaches, friends and family in the Colquitt County High cafeteria, Pearson signed her letter of intent to play at the Division I school located in Rock Hill, S.C.
"I just knew that is where I was meant to be," said the Lady Packers All-Region 1-7A shortstop. "I really felt wanted there."
Lady Packers coach Chance Pitts sounds as if he expects her to excel in the Big South Conference as she has at Colquitt County.
"Softball is a big priority for her," said Pitts, extolling the time she has put in to hone her softball talents. "We're proud to see her reaping the benefits of all the hard work she's put in.
"She's a coaching staff favorite and a great teammate. And she has a great support system at home. Her mom and dad (Stephanie and Richard Pearson) have been special for our program."
A four-year varsity player, Pearson earned her All-Region first-team selection as a senior by hitting .423 with eight doubles, five triples and four home runs and driving in 27 runs.
Pearson, Pitts and teammate Maris Hopper represented Colquitt County at the Georgia Dugout Club's Fastpitch All-Star game held in November at Truist Park in Atlanta.
For her career, she batted .327 with 25 doubles, seven triples and 10 homers. She drove in 93 runs in her four seasons as a Lady Packer, during which time Colquitt County posted an 88-34 record.
Pearson said the program's culture is what she values most from her time at Colquitt County playing for Pitts and assistant coaches Spenser Richardson, Ryan Davis and Rhonda Manley."The team chemistry has always been phenomenal," she said. "We've never had any issues as a team. And I always felt the coaches had my back.
"Great coaches and great teammates. It made the game a lot more fun."
Pearson originally played second base for the Lady Packers.
"There was an opening there and that's where I thought I could help the team," she said.
When she moved to shortstop last fall, it was clear she could excel that position as well. And that should not have been a surprise to those who have witnessed her development as a player.
"I had always been a shortstop," she said, adding that her two older siblings played shortstop at the collegiate level.
In addition to playing softball and being a member of the cheerleading squad, Pearson also performed on Colquitt County's inaugural flag football team that won the Area 1 championship and finished 11-1-1.
Pearson said she plans to major in biology and minor in business at Winthrop with an eye on becoming a veterinarian and owning her own practice one day.
"I've enjoyed my time working with Carli," said former Packers baseball coach Tony Kirkland, who worked with her at Moultrie's Fundamental Factory and served as her mentor.
"But I'm really proud of what's ahead of her educationally."
Pearson's official visit is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 9.
The Eagles will open their season the next day with games against North Carolina A&T at 1:30 and North Carolina of the ACC at 4 p.m.
Winthrop will play at Georgia Southern and at Georgia State this season and Pearson is planning to be in attendance.