Chapel Hill’s Darby Demarest signed a scholarship offer on Nov. 19 to pay softball at Columbus State University. The area is a place Demarest is familiar with after helping the Lady Panthers reach the Elite 8 Tournament, which is held in Columbus every year. The senior pitcher signed a “full” scholarship offer and will also be helped out by the H.O.P.E. Scholarship.
Demarest’s choice came down to three schools, Columbus, Emory and Gordon State. She also had a few offers from other schools but those where the big three.
“All the girls were really nice and I loved the coach and the school in general,” Demarest said on why she chose Columbus. “The school was a good fit for me because it is not too big and not too small. I get a chance to play softball and have the opportunity to pitch.”
Columbus is coached by Brad Huskisson. Huskisson is starting his sixth season as head coach of the Lady Cougars and 10th overall. In 2012 and 2013, the coach had his finest moments while in charge of the CSU softball program, leading the Lady Cougars to the NCAA Tournament after storming to the Peach Belt Conference Tournament crown for two consecutive seasons.
In the 2012 PBC Tournament, hosted by CSU at Cougar Field, Columbus became the first team in PBC Tournament history to win every game as the lowest seed in each matchup. CSU entered the tournament as the fifth seed and proceeded to take down fourth seeded Flagler, regular season champions Armstrong Atlantic State University and three-time defending PBC Tournament champions North Georgia in the championship game.
Entering the NCAA Tournament on a seven-game winning streak, the Lady Cougars defeated Augusta State 2-1 in the opening round of the Southeast Regional. After a heartbreaking 2-1 loss against North Georgia, Augusta State eliminated Columbus State from the tournament. CSU ended the season with a 40-20 record, the sixth most wins in program history.
As the fourth seed in 2013, the Lady Cougars took down PBC Tournament host Flagler in the opening round, knocked off top-seeded Armstrong in the semifinals and routed Georgia College for a second consecutive tournament championship. The 12 runs scored by the Lady Cougars set a new PBC Tournament championship game record. CSU outscored its opponents 21-1 over the three-game tournament.
After rolling through the conference tournament, the Lady Cougars defeated Mount Olive 8-2 to open up the Southeast Regional. Columbus State then bested Armstrong for a second straight time the following day, but Armstrong dropped the Lady Cougars twice in the finals to end CSU’s season at 41-18.
The 2014 team continued the program's winning tradition in the PBC Tournament advancing to the championship game as the sixth seed. The final was cancelled due to rain keeping the Lady Cougars from an opportunity at a third consecutive championship. They finished with a 31-20 record.
Demarest has had a chance to talk to Huskisson and said she will be expected to show up next fall ready to work hard in both the classroom and on the field.
The Chapel Hill pitcher had an excellent 2014 senior season. She led the county in ERA at 1.37. She had a 19-4 record and struck out 154 batters in 123 innings, while only walking 37. Opponents hit .140 against her. She was also named to the GACA All-State First Team.
“She is a kid that has great leadership skills, great character, is a great athlete, and does well academically,” said CHHS coach Mick Harper. “She has meant so much to us with her mindset and ability and then what she does on the mound, to be apart of 200 wins and back-to-back region championships. She will be hard to replaced.”
Demarest says there is no comparison with college and high school because of the bond she created growing up with the girls she played with and against.
“It is an honor being able to represent this school,” Demarest said. “Coach Harper was one of my favorite coaches that I have worked with and he gave me the great opportunity to play here and pitch for him.”
Demarest was very active at Chapel Hill. Along with playing softball, she also competed on the cross country and track and field team. In track and field, she competed in the 800, 1600, 4x400 and high jump. She was also a member of BETA Club, National Honor Society, National Art Society and Key Club.
“You never want to see a kid like her leave because they are so hard to replace,” Harper said. “But at the same time, you want them to move on to that next phase. We are excited about her going to Columbus and she can go down there, grow, be stronger, and help them win. I am very proud of what she has accomplished.”
Demarest knows she could not have made it to where she has alone and had a long list of people to thank along the way.
“I’d like to thank first, God, for my ability, and second, my parents, for their support since I started playing at six years old. Also thanks to my extended family, friends and teammates that have supported me over the years,” Demarest said.
She added thanks to her pitching coach of seven years, Tim Smith, and to the Chapel Hill coaching staff of Harper, Bobby Nail, Tim Trowell and Doug Allen. Demarest thanked her travel ball coach, Hal Kadel, who she played with for six years and on three different teams, the DC Force, Georgia Velocity, and Georgia Power Blue.
She went on to recognize her first travel team coach, Carlton Meadows, middle school coaches, Kendra Robinson and Cindy Allen, her cross county, track and field, and weight training coach, Kelly Williams, and Coach Kim Eldredge for supporting her since kindergarten.
“Everyone of these people have made an impact on me through sports and personally,” Demarest concluded.