By AMELIA VENEZIANO
of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
WALLA WALLA - Wa-Hi softball player Hope Klicker put pen to paper Wednesday, signing her letter of intent to continue her athletic career at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina.
Klicker, a senior at Wa-Hi, has played softball since she was about 9 years old. She was the 2010 Gatorade Washington Softball Player of the Year and was a second team All American in the West Region.
She'll play first base at Charleston, a Division I program.
"At first, D-I wasn't a big deal," Klicker said, while family and coaches waited for her to sign. "I thought the chips would fall where they may, and it turned out to be at a smaller D-I. It's a great fit."
Girl's basketball coach Jill Meliah first introduced Klicker to the southern school.
Meliah's cousin plays there and her uncle assists in coaching the team. On a visit, she introduced her uncle and head coach Shelly Hoerner to Klicker's stats on paper.
Hoerner took a trip to North Dakota, where Klicker, then a sophomore, was playing in nationals. She liked what she saw and contacted Klicker - and Charleston was the first team to do so.
Klicker joins five other incoming freshmen on the Cougars.
"I'm really excited," she said.
Klicker hopes to study communication or education. She's participated in Running Start through Wa-Hi to get ahead in her studies and used to being more independent. Klicker has also made two campus visits and fallen in love with the college and community.
"It will be a big change," the lifelong Walla Walla resident said of the southern town, a palmetto necklace around her neck. "The culture, style and people are so different."
Although it's a trip, her family will make it often.
They accompanied her on an unofficial visit last winter and decided it would work.
"As we were pulling out, we went ‘Wow,' said Kraig Klicker, Hope's father. "It seemed like such a classy program and the whole Charleston area was charming. It was really great."
Klicker's family was represented at the signing. Her parents, Kraig and Charlotte Klicker, paternal grandparents, Bob and Nancy Klicker, and maternal grandparents Charles and Merilyn Clizer, as well as a contingent of aunts and uncles, coaches and friends were there to watch her sign.
Klicker is the third player under Wa-Hi softball coach Jerry Humphreys to sign with a D-I program.
"If you look at all the family support she's got, you can see why she's successful," Humphreys said. "It's why she's Hope Klicker."
Humphreys has coached Klicker throughout her Wa-Hi career, including back-to-back state trips in 2009 and 2010.
"There's a lot of work on her side," he said. "We're excited for her. She's a great person and she knows what to do. Now she can relax and enjoy her senior year."
And although Klicker has been selected for first base, Humphreys' will see her in the circle for the Blue Devils this season.