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South Effingham's Easterling will hit again
Natalie Easterling
Natalie Easterling is all smiles after signing with Middle Georgia State University on Monday. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

GUYTON — South Effingham’s Natalie Easterling is enduring the longest hitless streak of her softball career.

Fortunately, the slump was created by the absence of opportunity and not a shortage of ability.

Easterling, in the process of rehabbing an injured knee, will eventually return to her hitting ways at Middle Georgia State University. On Monday, she signed a national letter of intent to attend the NAIA school this fall.

“It can’t get here soon enough,” Easterling said about the chance to swing a bat again. “I haven’t been able to do it for too long.”

Easterling tore an ACL in early November while playing in a travel ball tournament. Ironically, she was playing football between games when her knee buckled.

“It’s still painful,” she said a few minutes before signing with the Lady Knights. 

Despite undergoing numerous gruelling physical therapy sessions over the past several months, Easterling’s activities are still limited. Softball practice of any kind is off limits.

“Whatever you do, it puts stress on your knee,” she said.

Easterling expects to be ready when the Middle Georgia State starts the 2021 season. She will play in the outfield after spending much of her time with the Lady Mustangs behind the plate.

“She’s got speed and she’s athletic,” said Jeff Faith, South Effingham’s athletic director. “(Former South Effingham head softball) Coach (Todd) Eubanks said she was naturally athletic from birth.”

Easterling will offer the Lady Knight’s more than just physical skill, however. She is a gritty, emotional sparkplug.

Eubanks, according to Faith, said Easterling was a delight to have on the team because of her attitude and the leadership she displayed. 

“He called her ‘the hype girl,’” Faith said.