While searching for an opportunity to play softball in college, Emily Draper was asked to take a visit to Reinhardt University in Georgia.

“My coach (Jade Guether) is from LaMoille,” Draper said. “She was coaching up in Wisconsin then she came down to Georgia. She invited me to come visit and I thought, ‘Why not?’ I loved it down here. I loved the team. I loved the atmosphere and the campus and I ended up down here.”

She hasn’t regretted it.

The St. Bede graduate recently completed her junior year at Reinhardt, an NAIA school in Waleska, Ga., which is an hour drive north of Atlanta.

She loves life in Georgia so much she’s staying there over the summer as she interns at Moore Colson, an accounting firm in Marietta where she’s doing audits.

Draper even plans to remain in Georgia after graduation.

“I’m graduating early and starting my masters program online while playing softball,” Draper said. “I will end up finishing my masters, getting my CPA and finding somewhere to work and live down in Georgia.”

Draper said life in Georgia is very different than back home in the Illinois Valley.

“I’d say the pace down here is very relaxed compared to up north,” Draper said. “Even with work everything is kind of laid back. You come into work when you can and leave when you can. You just have to get in your 40 hours.”

Of course, the weather is much better too.

“It’s very hot,” Draper said. “You don’t have to worry about snow. You get to practice outside all year.”

Draper and her Reinhardt teammates start practicing outside as soon as they return to school for second semester in early January, and the Eagles have a home tournament at the end of February.

“It’s helped me to be able to practice outside all the time,” Draper said. “You get to see live pitching and get the feel of the field.”

Draper had a solid junior season as she started 47 games as the Eagles went 30-19.

She hit .348 with 23 RBIs, 21 runs, nine doubles, three triples and a pair of home runs.

Draper also recorded a .988 fielding percentage in the outfield.

Draper was voted First-Team All-Appalachian Athletic Conference and was also named to the league’s Champions of Character Team and All-Academic Team.

“It went really well,” Draper said. “I played better than I have been (in previous seasons). I definitely put in a lot of extra work on weekends and days off. I decided I needed to relax and get out of my head. I put a lot of pressure on myself the last two years. This year I decided to just play.

“My fielding definitely improved. Offensively, I used my three ways to hit — power hitting, slap hitting and bunting.”

With one season left, Draper is hoping the Eagles have more success.

“I’m hoping we do a lot better as a team,” Draper said. “I want to win conference and move on to the national tournament.

“(Individually), I want to dominate on the field. I want to try to have minimal errors, get my batting average up and work on using all three aspects of my hitting.”

Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at sports@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.

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