FRENCH SETTLEMENT – Claire Cullen started playing softball when she was four years old, and now she’s getting a chance to continue that journey.
Cullen, who is preparing for her senior season at French Settlement, signed with Louisiana Christian University during a ceremony Friday at the FSHS cafeteria.
“I’ve always wanted to play in college,” Cullen said. “I’ve been knowing that forever. I’m just ready to go play, see what this college experience has to offer, meet new people, get more work in and just have fun.”
Cullen said she got on Louisiana Christian’s radar with the help of her travel ball coach Rory Gresham with Student Athlete Advancement.
“I just talked to (LCU coach Barry Roberts) after a game and he told me (to) come take a look at the campus, and so just one weekend. I went up there and fell in love with the campus, fell in love with Coach Roberts, and I just told him ‘I’m coming next year,’” said Cullen, who is planning to major in physical therapy. “When I got there, I just loved the campus. It’s so pretty. Their field is so nice. I met some of the players and they said loved it there, and Coach Roberts is a really nice guy. He just won me over with everything he said. The school’s really good. It’s not just athletics. The education, too, is going to be really good, I think.”
During her time at French Settlement, Cullen has played a number of positions, including shortstop most recently, but Cullen said she’ll likely be moving to third base in college.
She was a second-team All-District 10-2A utility player and a second-team All-Parish infielder as a junior.
“I want to play third,” Cullen said. “Coach Rory moved me to third during the summer, and I really fell in love with it, so I think that’s what I’m going to stick with. It’s definitely going to be a different experience in college, I think. Definitely more competition, and the hot corner at third’s definitely going to get hotter, I assume, but I’m pretty excited for that.”
West said Cullen shouldn’t have any problems adjusting to college softball.
“There’s a ton of aspects of her game that’s going to fit well with the college level,” he said. “She’s a player. She really understands the game. She’s a natural student of the game. She’s someone who, over the course of her career has progressively gotten better in nearly every area of the game. Her batting average has gone up every year. Her home run totals, RBIs (are) up every year. She cuts down on her strikeouts every year. She only had two strikeouts all of last season, as a matter of fact. She’s a player. She understands hard work. She understands what it takes to be successful, and I feel like if she goes into college with the same mindset that she’s had her four years here at French Settlement, she’ll make an impact right off the bat.”
“She’s got the arm strength for it,” West said of Cullen moving to third base. “She’s got the understanding of the game for it. I feel like third base is going to fit her well, but defensively, I feel like there’s multiple positions where she can fit at the college level.”
Cullen said she hasn’t gotten any guarantees in terms of playing time.
“I’m definitely going to have to work,” she said. “I’m not sure who all is going to be there, who’s also going to be trying to compete for the spot. We have to see when I get there.”
Heading into her senior year, Cullen said she’s glad the recruiting process is behind her.
“I’m just glad to know where I’m going, looking forward to it,” she said. “It’s a big relief not having to stress (about) where I’m trying to go to college …
“I’m just ready for this high school season to get it going,” Cullen continued. “I’m ready to play with Coach Blake and the girls. We’re coming out strong. We’re going to be ready.”
West said completing the recruiting process at this point can only help Cullen.
“She can focus on improving her game even further,” he said. “She can focus on competing for a state championship this year, and she can really enjoy her last season here in high school before taking her game to the next level.”
“We’re very proud of Claire,” West said. “Very proud of all the work she put in. She’s a classic example of hard work paying off.”