Rudolph going to Gulf Coast State for softball

May 8—GMC Prep's Nickole "Coco" Rudolph is bound for a college destination that has at least two out of the three places where the senior can often be found.

The first is the softball field where Rudolph has grown up playing for both school and travel teams. Her game is going to the next level as she signed Thursday to Gulf Coast State College, a two-year school located in Panama City, Florida. Rudolph will look to do what many have done before her, which is use Gulf Coast State as a stepping stone to a four-year program.

"I visited other schools and I liked them," Rudolph said on why she chose Gulf Coast State. "But when I went to Gulf Coast I knew that was it. There's a feeling you get. I don't know exactly what it is, but I felt like God told me that was where I needed to be."

It also didn't hurt that Gulf Coast State boasts easy access to one of Rudolph's other favorite pastimes — fishing. The soon-to-be Class of 2024 graduate spends a lot of time on the lake soaking her line. Hunting is another favorite hobby of hers, so the woods are that third place where she can be found.

Gulf Coast has by many measures reeled in a nice catch with Rudolph's decision to attend. She's been either a First or Second Team All-Region and All-County player every year of high school. In 2023 she hit for a .398 average with a team-high six home runs and 23 RBI.

"She's done some great things here and she's excelled," GMC Prep head softball coach Jennifer Deason said. "It's been a privilege to have coached her."

Demetrius Woods, Rudolph's travel ball coach, touted her skillset and IQ and also pointed out that she brings a little bit of X-factor to the table.

"It seems like almost every tournament she puts us in a situation where we get to see something spectacular look so routine," said Woods.

He gave an example from a recent tournament in Dublin. His team was in the field playing defense with Rudolph at third base when the opposing hitter popped a ball up to the left side in foul territory. Woods, thinking no one could get to it, quickly wrote it off as a strike. Next thing he knew, Rudolph came diving in to make the catch for an out instead.

"That's who Coco is on the ballfield," Woods said.

Rudolph will take that talent to Panama City and suit up for the Commodores. At the signing ceremony, there was some question as to what exactly a Commodore is. According to the school's website, Gulf Coast State has used the Commodore, a title for a high-ranking naval officer, as its mascot since 1966. It was chosen because the college was founded on land formerly occupied by a shipyard and the "generous contributions" the Naval base made to the school's basketball team.

Gulf Coast softball is 39-13 so far this spring and is entering the Florida College System Activities Association tournament as the fifth seed. They'll play Central Florida in the eight-team tournament opener today.