Hooks looking for nationalchampionship berth in last-ever softball season

Allana Hooks has been playing softball since she was knee-high to a grasshopper, and she’s proven to be a phenom on the field. In her last season playing fastpitch, she and her fellow East Georgia State College Lady Bobcats are working hard to earn themselves a place in the National Junior College Championship bracket.

A native of Twin City, Hooks is the daughter of Tashia and Allan Hooks. She graduated from Emanuel County Institute and was an integral part of the highly competitive, highly successful Lady Bulldogs softball program for four years. As a freshman in high school, she made the second all-region team. She continued to progress and impress in the years that followed, starting her sophomore season when she was named Offensive MVP and made the first all-region team as well as the second all-state team. As a junior, she was named to the first all-region team and received the honor of Offensive MVP again, in addition to being named Region Player of the Year and leveling up in terms of all-state honors, this time being named to the first team. She repeated all of four of those honors—first team all-region, Region Player of the Year, Offensive MVP, and first team all-state—as a senior.

Hooks’s road to East Georgia State was a hard one in terms of recruiting. She says to be recruited by a college takes more work than simply playing in front of scouts; there are only certain months out of the year a college coach can talk to an athlete, and the recruiting process also depends what on what division those scouts coach in. The heavy hitter with a sure glove wanted to remain close to home, so she signed with the local junior college on December 14, 2018. Hooks arrived on campus in the fall of 2019 and was to play third base/utility. Now, her position on the field has changed because she now plays first base—but she is otherwise the same player: a slugger through and through, a reliable fielder, a great leader, and an exemplary teammate.

As her sophomore season begins, she looks back on her freshman year fondly, recalling a special moment at the plate against Brewton-Parker College. “I was so nervous I was shaking! I hit lead-off, which I’ve never done in my life. I was the only freshman on the field, and I hit my first collegiate home run that day.”

The next most memorable game in Hooks’s memory is perhaps the nailbiter that unfolded between East Georgia and Georgia Military College last March. The Lady Bobcats held GCAA foe GMC until the last inning, falling in an on-the-road heartbreaker loss 8-6. Then, COVID hit and canceled the rest of the season. Luckily, Hooks has one last shot to take care of business and exact revenge on the Bulldogs from Milledgeville when she and her team travel back northwestward in April.

No matter the outcome of that rivalry game, Hooks is counting her blessings. She was relieved to hear that her sophomore season would go on despite the pandemic. She’s grateful for that and everything she’s learned as a student-athlete, particularly at East Georgia. All of that is not to suggest, however, that she’s not somewhat disappointed with the cards life has dealt since coronavirus started.

“COVID-19 definitely affected us. We were worried we wouldn’t get to play our season, but we’ve been given the green light. We just have to be extremely careful not to be around someone with COVID so we don’t have to miss a week’s worth of practice and put ourselves behind,” she explained. “The worst part about it is we can’t have any fans. We’re really upset about that because for some of us, it’s our last time ever playing. I know my parents and grandparents have never missed one of my games, but due to COVID, they’re going to miss almost every game.”

To keep a positive mindset amid the negativity, she stays busy—but not necessarily by choice. Her schedule sees her playing two to three games a week with every game being a doubleheader. In theory, that grueling grind will be worth it in the end because if Hooks and her crew play to the best of their ability, they are top contenders to win the conference championship and take a trip to Arizona for the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division I Softball Championship.

In addition to the athletic demands of college, she’s juggling a full course load, a combination Hooks says requires tremendous commitment. “The expectations for student-athletes are higher than what they are for the usual student. In the classroom, you have to keep your grades up to be eligible. Professors don’t care about practice or games; they tell us athletes all the time, ‘You are here to be a student first and an athlete second.’”

Hooks is a nursing major, and that tenacity she has learned on and off the field through athletics will pay off in the future. In the here and now, though, she is trying to enjoy every last day she steps on the field with her biggest supporters, her parents, by her side.

“The people who have helped me most are my parents. They have been my biggest fans throughout this journey. They’ve helped me reach all my goals so far. I’m thankful for them, and I could never repay them for their time they’ve put into me and softball,” Hooks said with adoration. “When I think back on my career, I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing. I have worked countless hours to make it where I am today. In high school, I set goals and reached them. I’ve done the same in college. I’ve just got one more to go, and that’s a national championship run.”

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