Wake up at 6 a.m. Go to class. Go to practice. Go home and study. Go to sleep.
Such is the life of a Division I athlete, a lifestyle former Mt. Vernon two-sport star Rachel Houck is getting still acclimated to as a freshman on the Louisville Cardinals’ softball team.
“Everything is demanding. Literally your whole day is devoted to workouts, practice and academics,” Houck said prior to a mid-afternoon hitting session. “We spend all of our time around those things.”
The Hancock County Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012, Houck shared the 2013 award – after scoring 40 runs and hitting .438 with 12 home runs, 37 RBIs and a .893 slugging percentage as a senior – with Eastern Hancock’s Savannah Blevins, Greenfield-Central’s Ashley Whitaker and New Palestine’s Erin Lehman, each of whom is seeing action in their freshman seasons at Franklin College, St. Joseph’s (Ind.) and Indiana University, respectively.
Whether she was playing basketball or softball for the Marauders, Houck was always in the midst of the action.
In her distinguished MV career, Houck played a role in five sectional titles, four county tourney victories, four Hoosier Heritage Conference crowns, two regional wins, two semistate triumphs and one state championship.
At Louisville, Houck is still doing plenty of winning – the Cardinals are 18-11 – but with the squad boasting six upperclassmen starters, Houck has almost exclusively been limited to bench duty. Other than a start Feb. 22 against IUPUI, Houck’s other 10 game appearances have been as a substitute. The 5-foot-5, 19-year-old has 11 at-bats under her belt so far, with her first career hit, a double, coming Feb. 9 in a 7-0 victory over St. John’s.
“The lineup was set, so you’re trying to earn whatever time you can,” said Houck, who scored her first run in a 5-4 win over Ohio State on Feb. 8. “That’s something I’ve never done before, so I have to get adjusted to that.”
Another modification to Houck’s game has come in the field. After coming up as a shortstop, Houck has been splitting time between third base and the outfield with the Cardinals – two positions she’s never played before.
“I keep moving around,” she said. “There are positions that are completely locked up right now, so they’ve moved me around to make sure I have more of an opportunity.”
Louisville softball has recently built up a strong tradition of success. Since founding the program in 2000, head coach Sandy Pearsall has won nearly 67 percent of her games. The Cardinals have 10 straight NCAA tournament appearances and are coming off a 47-13 finish in 2013.
The program’s winning ways was the deciding factor in Houck’s decision to attend Louisville, and she is set on helping the program “get over the hump” and earn its first Women’s College World Series berth.
“(The winning tradition) played the biggest role,” Houck said. “Louisville is a major Division I program with a majority of its sports ranked every year. I wanted to play for a team that played the best teams around and could go to the College World Series.
“That’s my goal for my four years here, to make it (to the Women’s College World Series).”
Through the seemingly non-stop adjustments, Houck maintains she’s enjoying herself in the Bluegrass State. She lives with her freshman teammates, and the family atmosphere of the program has her feeling right at home.
There is one thing Houck misses from Indiana: basketball, of course.
“It’s definitely been weird focusing on one sport for basically the last year,” she said. “It’s crazy. It makes me miss basketball and made me realize how much I love it.”