Raegan Clem has wanted to play softball at the University of North Alabama since she started going to their camps in eighth grade. Last Wednesday, the Ardmore catcher's wish came true as she signed to accept a scholarship to play for the Lions.
“The atmosphere is great, the coaches are wonderful and they make you feel at home always,” Clem said. “It's where I've wanted to go since I was a lot younger, and I'm super pumped that I am able to go there to play softball.”
Clem transferred to Ardmore from West Limestone in 2019 before her junior year. She said she was worried she wasn't going to be taken in by her new teammates seeing as she was coming from a county rival. However, she said she fit right in.
“It was totally unexpected how they took me in,” Clem said. “They were all such great competitors when I played against them (at West Limestone), so I knew I had to show I was ready to work hard for them and the team. But now, I couldn't imagine playing for another team and another coach. He (coach Stephen Baugh) has been wonderful for me. The program is amazing.”
Baugh said Clem's work ethic made it easy for her Ardmore teammates to accept her and welcome her in to the Tiger program.
“She's an extremely hard worker, and that's why she fits in well with our program,” Baugh said. “She always wants to make sure she's doing everything right and doing things the way we expect it. It's always a learning curve when you come to a new school and a new program, but the work ethic is how you fit in, and she was up at the field with her dad at 7, 8 o'clock at night working on hitting. She's definitely one of us.”
Clem said she felt she had to prove herself after transferring in to an Ardmore program that has won a state championship and played in the state tournament the past three years one took place.
“I didn't want to come in thinking I had a spot, because I knew I had to work for the spot I had,” Clem said. “I had girls that would be at the field with me all the time. They would come up and pitch to me, help me get better. I couldn't have done it without them.”
UNA won a Division II softball national championship in 2016, and has since moved to Division I, where the Lions compete in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Clem said while she always wanted to play at UNA, playing Division I college softball is even more exciting.
“It didn't matter to me (that UNA was Division II), but is just makes it more exciting for me, because it's a great accomplishment to play Division 1,” Clem said. “UNA being Division I now just makes it an extra exciting thing for me.”
Ardmore has a history of softball success, and Baugh has seen six of his players sign to play college softball in his five seasons as head coach.
Clem is the second consecutive Ardmore catcher to sign to play Division I softball after previous catcher Karla Hice signed with Southeastern Conference powerhouse Alabama in 2019.
“I'm pretty fortunate to have been able to coach so many good players,” Baugh said. “It's also good for our program because it sends a message to other college coaches that we've got talented players that need to be seen.”