April 15, 2009
Rachel Baucom is accustomed to winning when it comes to playing softball.
She played on six state championship teams at New Hope High School and back-to-back state championship teams at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala.
Baucom isn''t on a team that good this season, but she''s helping revive the softball program at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark.
She has led Central Arkansas to a 20-23 record, which is the most wins in a season since the program joined the Southland Conference in 2007.
"It''s definitely different, but I knew that coming in," Baucom said. "I knew what I was getting into coming in. It''s different as far as success goes (from her New Hope and Wallace State days), but as far as success goes here we''re very successful. I mean the program has totally turned around."
Central Arkansas has shown remarkable improvement in its third year in the Southland Conference. The Sugar Bears are 20-23 overall and 10-11 in the league after being 6-43 and 4-25 last season, and 16-42 and 6-24 in 2007.
Central Arkansas hasn''t had a winning since 2000, when it set a school record for most wins in a season with a 29-21 record.
"I came here knowing it was going to be a rebuilding type of thing with this program, and that''s one of the reasons why (Central Arkansas coach David Kuhn) said he recruited me -- to get get things going on the right foot," Baucom said. "We''ve already won more games than they have here. We''re doing good as far as that type of thing. We''ve swept teams in our conference that this team hasn''t beaten since this program has had a softball team. As far as that goes, we''ve been successful."
The 21-year old Baucom, a junior who graduated from New Hope in 2006, has started all 43 games her first season at Central Arkansas and she''s second on the team with a .287 batting average and 15 RBIs. She also has four doubles and a home run.
She''s also been a valuable addition defensively, playing third base, shortstop and catcher. In 151 chances, she''s made 71 putouts, had 74 assists and made only six errors.
"She started out playing mostly third the first 30 or so ballgames," Kuhn said. "We''ve had to move her around a lot lately because of a few injuries here and there. She can play all of them pretty good."
Kuhn said Baucom is the type of player he was looking for to help rebuild Central Arkansas'' program.
"If anything with her, I expected her to come in and be a leader and be the kind of person to help build this program, and show these kids here how to win because this program certainly did not know how to win," Kuhn said.
Kuhn, who is in his first season at Central Arkansas after being 369-222 in 10 years at Delta State University, said Baucom has done her part in reviving the Sugar Bears.
"It''s pretty hard to measure," Kuhn said of the contribution Baucom has made to the program. "She''s been a tremendous leader. She brings so many intangibles to the program. She''s a great leader, on and off the field. She leads by example. She''s been a great asset in helping us build this program.
"Basically she''s always the first to get here and the last to leave. She puts in the most time extra. She goes the hardest at practice and always gives 100 percent. She''s always positive and never negative. From the first day she stepped foot here, it was her team."
Kuhn can''t say enough about Baucom as a person as well as a softball player.
"I think God puts special people on this earth," Kuhn said. "She just knows what it takes to win and knows how much work and preparation it takes. The Lord just made a tremendous person and tremendous leader. It''s not just athletically. It''s doing the right thing all of the time. She''s certainly one of those type of people."
Central Arkansas plays its next game Saturday against Sam Houston State at home, and Baucom will try to keep leading the Sugar Bears in a positive direction.