By LARRY VAUGHT
She hit her first home run at Kentucky on opening day this season for the softball team in her first game back after missing the the second half of last season with a knee injury.
If that wasn’t enough to make senior Sarah Rainwater of Jessamine County feel better, she also found out she was one of 14 UK student-athletes selected for induction into the Frank G. Ham Society of Character. Softball teammates Abbey Cheek and Jenny Schapper were also inducted last week in the organization that requires extraordinary commitment to academic excellence, athletic participation, personal development and career preparation.
“I really am not sure why I got picked,” Rainwater said. “I guess different people just see different things in different people. But it was really cool and exciting to get picked.”
Rainwater was so excited when she got the email about her selection that she immediately took a screen shot of the email and sent it to her parents.
“They were excited, too,” she said.
Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson was thrilled that Rainwater’s rehab went smoothly and quickly.
“She was cleared before Christmas and has just looked great,” Lawson said. “She won her starting spot (in center field) back, which I wasn’t sure if she would be able to do or not so quickly. We have a great group of outfielders but she is special defensively. She was coming along offensively last year before she got hurt and it looks like she is going to pick right back up where she left off. I am so excited to have her back with us.”
Rainwater said the journey to get back on the field was not easy.
“Rehab was really hard. I had a shoulder injury here before, but the rehab was tough,” Rainwater, who was selected as a team captain this year and is also a SEC Honor Roll member, said.
Hard work has never bothered her. That’s how she’s been able to succeed both academically and athletically.
“I have just always been a good student, but it does require work,” she said. “I mainly just focus on school and softball. I don’t do a lot of other stuff.”
She stayed connected with the team last year even when she couldn’t play. She never lost confidence that her teammates, who reached the Super Regional, could do well without her.
“I knew the team could go places without me. We have a lot of good players,” Rainwater said.
What about the team this year with her back?
“We plan to go the (College) World Series,” Rainwater said. “We have a lot of games to go this season and a lot of tough games coming up. I really believe we have everything it takes to make the World Series and I am really excited for what this season is going to bring. I am just so excited to be back playing because sitting out last year was really hard.”
Yet Rainwater knows what she’s doing — along with the others that were inducted into the Frank Ham Society of Character — is making an impact beyond her sports season.
“I hope little girls back home are looking up to me for all I am doing, and I know they are,” Rainwater said. “I have worked hard and this honor (Society of Character) is just something really special. It’s something I never expected or really ever thought about. Again, I am still not even really sure why I got picked but I just know it’s something that will always really mean a lot to me.”