Red Demon catcher Grace Ruehle committed to Northwest Missouri State University and the Bearcats softball team, signing a national letter of intent Wednesday morning.

She was surrounded by family, her high school coach, and her travel-team coach as she signed.

“I’m ecstatic,” Ruehle said. “I’ve had this dream since I was a little girl, so being able to actually say that it’s not a dream anymore is a pretty mind-blowing concept.”

If the Bearcats keep her at catcher, Ruehle could be in a position to see early playing time. As of Wednesday, only one catcher was listed on the Bearcats’ roster, senior Jessica Rawie.

Bearcats head coach Ryan Anderson said he was looking forward to working with the Ruehle and the other players the team signed Wednesday.

"I am very excited to welcome our signing class to our Northwest family,” said Anderson. "We knew that with our senior class this year graduating, we needed to bring in players who could come in and immediately contribute to maintain the level we have been at the past few years. I think this class gives us depth and will challenge for some playing time immediately. We can't wait to have them on campus."

Ruehle’s travel-team coach Rob Miller was also present. Two of her teammates from Millers’s team also are signing today, she said, and she wished them luck.

“I know that all of us are gonna be so happy when we get to see each other again and go out and play this summer,” Ruehle said.

In the meantime, Ruehle said she’s excited for this upcoming season, her last under head coach Ashley Podschun, which starts in spring. Ruehle was a First-Team All-League Selection last season.

Podschun said she was very proud of Ruehle.

“She’s the catcher, so she’s kind of our floor-general, you could say, on the field,” Podschun said. “She sees the whole field at the same time and everyone kind of relies on her to be the vocal-leader as well since she can see the whole field.”

Podschun said she was “very privileged” to have a player like Ruehle when she began her first season last year as the head coach of the Red Demons.

“It was kind of awesome to have somebody that was so well-established behind the plate and did a great job,” Podschun said.

Ruehle was someone who came through with big plays when the team needed them, hit well when the team needed it and was someone Podschun could really fall back on, she said.

“I’m expecting a lot for her senior year and excited for her to be able to go on and play at a Division II level, so I’m super excited for her,” Podschun said.

Ruehle’s parents Greg and Kari were also present, along with her younger-brother Kyle.

“It’s a thrill,” Greg Ruehle said. “Since she was a young girl, her dream has always been to play college softball, and to see that realized today for us it’s a great honor but it’s a really special moment for her family.”

Greg Ruehle said you never really know if a scholarship offer is coming until it actually does.

When looking at the numbers, Greg Ruehle said so few people even play at the college level compared to how many play in high school, and the gap is even bigger between how many play in high school and how many actually get offered scholarships to play in college.

“It’s something you never take for granted,” Greg Ruehle said. “And when the offer came from Northwest Missouri State we were thrilled, but (what) we were really thrilled with was the coaching staff, the academic staff on campus, they really took into account her desire to go to vet-school.”

Grace Ruehle will major in pre-veterinary studies.

Her mother, Kari Ruehle, said Grace had known since three years old that she wanted to go pre-vet. Grace knew where she wanted to attend veterinary school, and researched what undergraduate programs would fit the requirements she needed to fulfill, Kari Ruehle said.

“She has dreams to go to either Oklahoma State or K-State for vet-school and she’d already looked at those requirements, and then when you do that there’s some classes that some pre-vet majors don’t offer,” Kari Ruehle said. “It was just a perfect match academically, and to have this on top of it was just wonderful.”

Aside from how well the academics lined up with Grace Ruehle’s goals, Greg Ruehle said the family was even more impressed with the staff.

“There’s a lot of work to that and coach (Ryan Anderson) knows that up front and they’re very willing to work with the student-athletes and let them be students first, and athletes second,” Greg Ruehle said.